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Tularemia Case Reported in Montezuma County

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Chocolate agar culture showing Francisella tularensis colonies

Health officials are warning area residents to be careful handling rodents after a case of tularemia was confirmed in a rabbit in Montezuma County. Sometimes called “rabbit fever”, tularemia is a bacterial disease often found in beavers and small rodents as well as rabbits. It can be transmitted to humans by ticks, fleas, or deer flies, through cuts in the skin when handling infected animals, by drinking contaminated water, or by inhaling dust carrying the bacteria. Usually occurring in warmer months, it can be serious but is very treatable with antibiotics. Pets can also contract it, but cats are more susceptible than dogs. Symptoms include fever, enlarged lymph nodes, aches, and a dry cough. Health officials advise using gloves when handling rodents, and applying insect repellents. Anyone who spots sick or dying rabbits should not touch them but should contact the Montezuma County Public Health Department at 970-565-3056.

Gail Binkly is a career journalist who has worked for the Colorado Springs Gazette and Cortez Journal. She is currently a freelance writer as well as the editor of the Four Corners Free Press, based in Cortez.
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