Tularemia AKA Rabbit Fever
The Larimer County Department of Health and Environment has confirmed tularemia in a rabbit in northern Larimer County. Tularemia, also known as “rabbit fever” has been found across the county in previous years and has resulted in human cases. Soil can be contaminated by tularemia-causing bacteria from the droppings or urine of sick animals, usually from rabbits.
All warm-blooded animals are susceptible to tularemia, but we often see tularemia in rabbits. A recent die-off of rabbits in a neighborhood suggests a possible tularemia outbreak among the animals in that area. The bacteria these animals shed can persist in the soil or water for weeks, and it takes very few bacteria to cause an infection. “Because tularemia is naturally occurring in Larimer County, precautions should always be taken to prevent infection, said public health director Tom Gonzales, MPH. “It is important to keep children and pets away from wild animals.”
Tularemia can be transmitted to people, such as hunters, who have handled infected animals. Infection can also arise from the bite of infected insects (most commonly ticks and deer flies); by exposure to contaminated food, water, or soil; by eating, drinking, putting hands to eyes, nose, or mouth before washing after outdoor activities; by direct contact with breaks in the skin; or by inhaling particles carrying the bacteria (through mowing or blowing vegetation and excavating soil). In recent years, most human tularemia cases along the Front Range have been attributed to activities involving soil and vegetation.
Typical signs of infection in humans may include fever, chills, headache, swollen and painful lymph glands, and fatigue. If tularemia is caused by the bite of an infected insect or from bacteria entering a cut or scratch, it usually causes a skin ulcer or pustule and swollen glands.
Tularemia can be effectively treated with antibiotics. Should you have any of these early signs, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Untreated tularemia can lead to hospitalization if not diagnosed and treated appropriately.
Gardeners, landscapers, outdoor workers, hunters and others participating in activities outside are advised to:
- Wear gloves when gardening, and always wash hands before eating or putting hands to mouth, nose, or eyes
- Wear a dust mask when mowing or blowing vegetation, or excavating soil
- Wear an insect repellent effective against ticks, biting flies and mosquitoes (DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 are good choices)
- Wear shoes, rather than going barefoot, on grassy lawns, especially if dead rabbits or rodents have been seen in the neighborhood
- Never touch dead animals with bare hands
Local Tularemia Data
18 human cases in Larimer County since 2009
35 total animals have tested positive for tularemia since 2009
For more information on tularemia and protecting people and pets, visit http://bit.ly/2KQ2X5S.