First human case of rabbit fever confirmed in Mesa County

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT)-- Tularemia, often known as rabbit fever, has been confirmed in a Mesa County resident in the Redlands area, according to the health department.

Health officials said the bacteria that causes rabbit fever has been found across Mesa County. Rabbits in the eastern Redlands and in the area southwest of Fruita have tested positive for rabbit fever.

Tularemia has the potential to affect squirrels, beavers, muskrats and other rodents, in addition to pets and livestock.

Health officials said not to handle or feed wild animals in order to protect yourself.

They also said to take these precautions:

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

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

-Tularemia causing bacteria can become airborne when soil is disturbed. Wear a mask while mowing or weed-whacking 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 along-handled shovel to place it in a garbage bag, and then place the 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.

Tularemia is treatable, according to the health department. Symptoms include infected ulcer-like bite, swollen glands, fever, dry cough, body aches and headaches.

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