Jefferson County, Colo. — A rabbit found in the Golden/Lakewood area (near South Table Mountain Park) has died from tularemia, an uncommon, but serious, infectious disease. This is the first positive case of tularemia in an animal in Colorado in 2018, and the first positive case of tularemia in an animal in Jefferson County since 2015.
Tularemia is often spread through the bite of infected ticks and deer flies or through handling infected sick or dead animals, like rabbits or other rodents. Though less common, the disease can also be spread by eating the meat of infected rabbits or by inhaling airborne bacteria or drinking food or water contaminated with urine from an infected animal.
Though tularemia is rare in Colorado, there are about 200 human cases of the disease in the U.S. each year. Treatment with antibiotics is effective during early stages of the diseases, but if diagnosis and appropriate treatment are delayed, life-threatening complications may follow. Medical care should be obtained as soon as symptoms appear.
Symptoms include fever, non-healing skin ulcer at the site of infection and swollen and painful lymph glands. If the infection is caused by ingesting contaminated food or water, the symptoms include a sore throat, mouth sores, abdominal pain and diarrhea. If the bacteria is inhaled, pneumonia can develop with symptoms including fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, dry cough and progressive weakness.
However, if proper preventive steps are followed, the risk of contracting tularemia is low. Jefferson County Public Health recommends these important steps to prevent exposure:
To learn more about tularemia, visit our website at www.jeffco.us/2371 or call the Jefferson County Public Health Zoonosis program at 303-271-5730.
About Jefferson County Public Health
Public health is what we as a society do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our neighborhoods and communities. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is committed to promoting and protecting health across the lifespan through prevention, education and partnerships for all people. To learn more about JCPH, visit https://www.jeffco.us/public-health. You can also follow JCPH on Twitter @JeffcoPH and Facebook @jeffcopublichealth.