Rabbit in Whitewater infected by tularemia

Residents warned, told to protect their pets



Health officials recommend taking precautions to avoid exposure:

■ Don’t handle or feed wild animals.

■ Use an Environmental Protection Agency-approved repellent effective against ticks and mosquitoes.

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

■ Wear a mask while mowing or cutting weeds to avoid breathing in dust if wildlife crosses your property often.

■ If you need to dispose of an animal carcass on your property, wear gloves and use a long-handled shovel to place it in a garbage bag. Then place the garbage bag in an outdoor garbage can.

■ Protect your pets. Prevent them from hunting or eating wild animals. Contact a veterinarian if your pet becomes ill with a high fever and/or swollen lymph nodes.

Mesa County health officials are reminding residents to protect their pets and not handle wildlife after a dead rabbit found in Whitewater tested positive for tularemia.

A couple found the carcass on their property last week and reported it to the Mesa County Health Department. The rabbit was turned over to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which confirmed the disease this week, county health spokeswoman Katie Goddeyne said.

The infectious disease is found in rabbits, prairie dogs and other rodents annually, particularly in Whitewater and the neighborhoods just east and just west of Colorado National Monument.

The couple who found the rabbit called local health officials after learning about tularemia last year. They told officials they see rabbits and prairie dogs on their property regularly this time of year, but this was the first time they’d ever found a carcass.

Health officials say residents who live in those areas and find a dead rabbit should remove the carcass safely from their property and don’t necessarily need to turn it over to health officials, since testing in those areas is no longer necessary.

However, should residents find multiple dead animals on or around their property, no matter where they live, they should call the Health Department right away, as that could indicate unusual disease activity.

Tularemia is treatable. Residents should contact their health care provider if they notice symptoms including an infected, ulcer-like bite, swollen glands, fever, dry cough, body aches and headaches.


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