Rabbit fever confirmed in Mesa, Moffat counties
November 1, 2016
Craig — One human, two wild animals and one domestic animal in Mesa County along with a domestic animal in Moffat County have tested positive with Tularemia.
Also called rabbit fever, "Tularemia is a fatal bacterial disease of rabbits and rodents that can spread to humans and other species," states the Colorado Parks and Wildlife fact sheet on Tularemia.
More than 100 human cases of the disease were reported between January 2005 and August 2016 in Colorado.
Of those, 16 cases occurred on the Western Slope in Delta (2), Eagle (2), Garfield (2), Grand (1), Gunnison (1), Mesa (5), Montrose (2) and Routt (1) counties, said the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Tularemia Surveillance Report.
The signs and symptoms of tularemia include sudden fever, chills, headaches, diarrhea, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough and progressive weakness, though people can also develop pneumonia with chest pain, cough and difficulty breathing said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
"Although tularemia can be life-threatening, most infections can be treated successfully with antibiotics," the CDC said.
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The majority of animals testing positive for the disease in Colorado were rabbits, however other animals with the disease include: beavers, Colorado chipmunks, hamsters, mice, muskrat, prairie dogs, tree squirrels, coyote and fox, said the health department report.
"It's called rabbit fever but affects a wide variety of animals," said Mike Porras, CPW regional public information officer based in Grand Junction.
The disease is transmitted through ticks, biting flies and fleas as well as from skinning carcasses, handling tissues, eating an infected animal, drinking contaminated water or inhaling contaminated aerosols or agricultural dusts.
The CDC recommends taking steps to prevent tularemia by using insect repellent, wearing gloves when handling sick or dead animals and avoiding mowing over dead animals.
"We recommend that people never handle wildlife in general and specifically never handle sick wildlife," Porras said.
Hunters cleaning wild game for consumption should look for pinpoint white spots throughout the liver and spleen and if in doubt "bring it to our offices and we can test it," Porras said.