Local woman contracts rabbit fever

A Mesa County woman has contracted tularemia, a disease often referred to as rabbit fever that has been found in wild rabbits, other small animals and livestock.

The reported case of tularemia is the first in Mesa County this year, on the heels of four reported cases of humans contracting the disease in 2015, said Katie Goddeyne, spokeswoman for the Mesa County Health Department.

There are seven reported cases of tularemia in Colorado so far this year, according to state records.

“Before last year we hadn’t really had too many cases of tularemia,” Goddeyne said.

Andy Tyler, regional epidemiologist for Mesa County, said county officials believe the woman contracted the disease in the Redlands. Rabbits from the east side of the Redlands to southwest Fruita have tested positive for tularemia this summer, the health department reported.

People can contract the disease as a result of being bitten by deer flies that have been in contact with infected animals. The disease can become airborne when the soil is disturbed, and it can be found in contaminated water, Tyler said.

Tularemia is a treatable disease, but symptoms — which include an infected ulcer-like bite, swollen glands, fever, dry cough and body aches and headaches — can be serious, the health department said.

According to Colorado state records, 101 people have contracted the disease since 2005, more than half of those cases, or 52, were reported in 2015.

Residents are advised of the following precautions:

■ Don’t handle or feed wild animals.

■ Use repellent to guard against deer tick and mosquito bites.

■ Wear long pants, long sleeves and long socks to keep deer flies off your skin.

■ Wear a mask when mowing or weed-whacking your yard if wildlife is common in your area.

■ Dispose of an animal carcass by wearing gloves, using a long-handled shovel to place it in a garbage bag and depositing it in an outside garbage can.

■ Don’t allow pets to hunt or eat wild animals and contact a veterinarian if your pet becomes ill with a high fever and swollen lymph nodes.


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