A rabbit found in Jefferson County in Colorado is confirmed to have died from tularemia, an uncommon but serious infectious disease. In outbreaks, infected animals like rabbits, hares, and other rodents often die in large numbers, but it is also a disease that can be passed on to humans.

What are some important things to know about tularemia?

Rabbit Death In Colorado

Authorities have confirmed that the rabbit that was found in the Golden/Lakewood area in Jefferson County died from tularemia. This is the first case of tularemia in the state in 2018, and the first case of tularemia in Jefferson County since 2015.

In the entire United States, there are about 200 human cases of tularemia each year, but it is actually considered a rare disease in Colorado. It is a disease in animals and humans that can cause serious illnesses in humans and mass die-offs in the infected animal populations during outbreaks.

As this is the first confirmed case of tularemia in the state this year, authorities are urging the public to stay vigilant and prevent exposure by avoiding any rabbit or rodent species in the yard and eliminating places in which they may hide or burrow. It’s also important to rodent-proof and tick-proof the house and to conduct tick checks, especially when spending a lot of time outdoors. If there is a need to handle dead rabbits or rodents, it’s imperative to wear rubber gloves and to wash the hands with soap and water after handling.

Tularemia In Humans

Tularemia can be spread through the bite of ticks or deer flies, but it may also be contracted through contact with infected animals, through ingesting contaminated water, through laboratory exposure, or through inhaling infected aerosol dust. The most common mode of contracting the disease is through tick and deer fly bites, which often result in ulcers at the site where the bacteria entered the body, as well as swelling of the lymph glands.

When a person ingests contaminated meat or water, he or she may experience tonsillitis and sore throat and may develop mouth ulcers and swollen lymph glands in the neck. The most serious form of tularemia, however, is when an individual inhales the bacteria, as this can cause cough, chest pain, and breathing difficulties, but these symptoms may also occur when other types of tularemia are left untreated and the bacteria spread to the lungs.

The disease is not known to be able to pass from person to person, so a person with tularemia need not be isolated from others. That said, anyone who has been exposed or has fallen ill with tularemia needs immediate medical attention as the disease can be fatal if not immediately treated with the right antibiotics.

Tularemia As A Weapon?

Interestingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that tularemia can actually be used as a weapon in bioterrorism, especially since only a small amount of the organisms may cause serious respiratory illnesses. The manufacturing of this kind of bio-weapon, however, would require considerable expertise.

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