First positive human case of tularemia in Pueblo County

PUEBLO, Colo. (KKTV) – The Pueblo County Health Department has confirmed the first case of human tularemia in 2022 in a child.

“Residents of Pueblo, especially those who live in Pueblo West, are advised that tularemia-causing bacteria may be present in some of the mammals, especially rabbits, rodents, and hares, and on the ground where these animals may be active,” Alicia Solis, program manager at the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment. Solis added, “Cases of human tularemia are rare, but certain activities can increase the risk of developing the disease. These activities may include inhaling or consuming contaminated soil or water, direct skin contact with infected animals, or being bitten by a tick or deer fly.

Tularemia, also known as “rabbit fever”, can be spread through soil contaminated “by the feces or urine of sick animals such as rabbits and the bacteria that cause tularemia can aerosolize and be inhaled when a person mows, blows leaves or turns the soil”.

“Because tularemia is known to be in Pueblo County, precautions to prevent tularemia infection should always be taken, especially when mowing weeds or grass and when the ground is disturbed. “Solis pointed out.

Pueblo County Health says dogs and cats can also get tularemia from eating infected rabbits or other rodents and from tick and deer fly bites. If your pet has symptoms such as fever, runny nose and eyes, and skin lesions, take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Officials say tularemia is easily treated if diagnosed early in dogs and cats.

Typical symptoms of tularemia in humans include fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, chest pain, and cough. Tularemia can be treated with antibiotics; contact your doctor if these early signs are present.

Pueblo County Health provided the following recommendations:

Recommended precautions include:

  • Avoid handling wild animals.
  • When outdoors near areas where wild rabbits or rodents are present, wear insect repellent containing DEET.
  • Use a dust mask when mowing or gardening. Do not mow animal carcasses.
  • Wear shoes covering your feet when outdoors where dead animals have been found.
  • Do not go 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 unpurified water from streams or lakes and do not let your pets drink surface water.
  • Leave your pets outside and keep them away from dead animals.
  • Always use tick and flea prevention treatment on pets.
  • If a dead animal must be moved, avoid direct contact with the carcass. Wear insect repellent to protect yourself from fleas or ticks and use a long-handled shovel to scoop up the carcass.
  • Place the carcass in a garbage bag and dispose of it in an outdoor trash can. Then wash your hands with soap and water.

If you hunt, trap or butcher animals, take extra steps:

  • Use liquid-proof gloves when skinning or handling animals, especially rabbits.
  • Thoroughly cook wild rabbit meat to a temperature of 165°F or higher.

Click here for more information from the CDC.

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