GOLDEN, Colo. (CBS4) — Officials with Jefferson County Public Health announced Friday the first case of tularemia found in a Colorado animal this year.

A rabbit found near South Table Mountain Park died from the disease.

Tularemia is contagious and can be transferred to humans through the bites of infected fleas or ticks, through the handling or infected animals (dead or alive), through eating the meat of infected animals, through the drinking infected water, or through inhaling bacteria.

On average, about 200 cases of Tularemia are reported nationally every year. The disease is easily treatable if symptoms are addressed early with antibiotics. However, life-threatening ailments can develop in the disease’s later stages when undiagnosed and untreated.

Symptoms include fever, mouth sores, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

Health officials say the chances of catching tularemia are rare if simple precautions are taken. Those include never touching rodents or rabbits (dead or alive) and eliminating spaces in and around homes where rodents and rabbits could gather or take up residence. Hikers and campers are also asked to use insect repellent regularly and to conduct ‘tick checks’ every two or three hours.

Citizens are also asked to report any perceived die-offs of animals to the local health department, and to not handle pets (without gloves and mask) that begin to show signs of sickness.

Only four human cases of tularemia were reported in Colorado in 2017. A large spike occurred, though, in 2015 when 52 people staet-wide were treated for the disease.

That year was also the last time a positive case of tularemia was found in a Jefferson County animal.



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