Rabbit fever found in animal in South Routt County
Steamboat Springs — The U.S. Forest Service is urging Routt National Forest visitors to be more vigilant with their pets after campers found a rabbit with a bacterial disease near Bear Lake southwest of Yampa.
The campers on Thursday found the rabbit acting strangely and entering their campsite. It eventually started convulsing before it was taken by the Forest Service for testing on Friday.
The rabbit tested positive for a bacterial disease called tularemia, better known as rabbit fever.
According to the Forest Service, tularemia is common in rodents and rabbits and is naturally occurring in the ecosystem. But it can be transmitted to humans and pets through contact with infected animals, ticks, deer flies and other insects.
Forest Service officials say the incident is isolated and the risk to the public is low.
Signs have been put up in the area warning forest users about the disease.
The campsites remain open.
Routt County Environmental Health Director Mike Zopf said this is the first local case of confirmed tularemia he can recall.
A recent report from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed tularemia had been diagnosed in 22 wild animals in the state so far this year.
Most of the positive tests came in Larimer County.
Tularemia in humans can be life-threatening, but most infections can be treated successfully with antibiotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Forest Service’s tips to prevent exposure to tularemia include:
• Don’t touch sick or dead animals with your bare hands
• Wear shoes and don’t go barefoot in areas where dead animals have been found
• Avoid unpurified water from steams and lakes and prevent pets from drinking the same
• Wear insect repellent
• See a doctor if you become ill with a high fever and/or swollen lymph nodes
• Keep your pets from hunting or eating wild rodents.
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