Health officials said Friday that a child in Pueblo County has been tested for tularemia, a rare contagious disease also known as “rabbit fever,” which primarily affects animals but can be transmitted to humans.
Sarah Joseph, a spokeswoman for the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment, said the child, who lives in Pueblo West, has been treated for the disease and is expected to make a full recovery.
“Pueblo residents, especially those who live in Pueblo West, are advised that the bacteria that cause tularemia may be present in some mammals, particularly rabbits, ferrets and hares, and on land where these animals may be active,” PDPHE Program Director Alicia Solis said in a statement.
Tularemia in humans is highly contagious and potentially fatal, but it can be effectively treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early. According to the Mayo Clinic.
Only about 200 cases of human tularemia are recorded in the United States each year, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its websitePueblo County has recorded only five cases of tularemia in its history.
Most cases occur in the south-central and western states and almost all cases occur in rural areas.
The disease is usually transmitted through the bites of ticks and flies, or from handling infected rodents, rabbits, or rabbits, says the CDC.
It can also be spread through soil contaminated with the droppings or urine of sick animals, and by bacteria that are spread in the air and inhaled when a person mows the lawn, blows leaves or turns the soil.
“Because tularemia is known to occur in Pueblo County, precautions should always be taken to prevent infection, especially when mowing weeds or lawns and when the soil is disturbed,” Solis said.
Hunters who flog animals without gloves and expose contaminated blood through an open wound are also at risk.
Typical signs of infection in humans include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, chest pain, and cough. Puebloans who think they may have tularemia should contact their medical provider immediately.
Pets can also be infected with tularemia. If a pet shows symptoms of illness including fever, nasal and eye discharge, and skin sores, they should be taken to a vet. The disease is easily treatable in animals if caught early.
PDPHE recommends that people take the following precautions to prevent contraction of tularemia:
- Avoid handling wild animals.
- When outdoors, near areas where hares or rodents are present, use DEET repellent.
- Use a dust mask when mowing or doing yard work. Do not trim animal carcasses.
- Wear shoes that cover your feet when you are outside where dead animals have been found.
- Don’t walk barefoot or wear sandals while gardening, mowing, or landscaping.
- Wear gloves while gardening or landscaping and wash your hands after these activities.
- Do not drink impure water from streams or lakes or allow your pets to drink surface water.
- Raise your pets when you are outside and keep them away from dead animals.
- Routinely use a treatment to prevent ticks and fleas on pets.
- If a dead animal must be transported, avoid direct contact with the carcass. Wear an insect repellent to protect yourself from fleas or ticks, and use a long-handled shovel to pick up the body.
- Place the carcass in a trash bag and dispose of it in an outdoor trash receptacle. Wash your hands with soap and water afterwards.
Those who hunt, hunt or hunt animals should also take the following precautions:
- Use gloves that do not allow liquid to pass through when skinning or handling animals, especially rabbits.
- Cook rabbit meat thoroughly until it reaches a temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.
Zach Hillstrom can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ZachHillstrom
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