Please note: Not all animals reported to the Health Department or Animal Control will be picked up and/or tested. Wild animals die every day of many reasons, not just of tularemia.
Please only report a die-off of multiple rabbits (more than one) in an area. Once tularemia has been confirmed in an area, further testing may not be useful and/or necessary.
At this time, tularemia has been confirmed in four local rabbits, in three different areas.
Current risk: low, but present
The diagnosis of tularemia in four wild rabbits in Fort Collins has prompted the Health Department to alert residents to take certain precautions. Larimer County residents are advised that tularemia-causing bacteria may be present in some local mammals — especially rabbits and hares. Residents have noticed a die-off of rabbits in some areas over the past few weeks.
Tularemia is a bacterial infection most commonly transmitted to humans that have handled infected animals. Infection can also arise from the bite of infected insects (most commonly ticks and deer flies), by exposure to contaminated food, water, or soil by eating, drinking, or direct contact with breaks in the skin, and less commonly, by inhaling aerosolized particles carrying the bacteria (through mowing or blowing vegetation).
Typical signs of infection in humans are fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, chest pain, and coughing. If tularemia is caused by the bite of an infected insect or from bacteria entering a cut or scratch, it usually causes a skin ulcer and swollen glands. Eating or drinking food or water containing the bacteria may produce a throat infection, stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Tularemia can be effectively treated with antibiotics, therefore should you have any of these early signs, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Dogs and cats also get tularemia by eating infected rabbits or other animals, by drinking contaminated surface water, through tick and deer fly bites, and though exposure to contaminated soil if the skin is broken. If your pet shows symptoms of illness which may include fever, loss of appetite, enlarged lymph nodes, ulcers on the mouth and tongue, draining abscesses, nasal and eye discharge, and skin sores, take it to the veterinarian promptly. As in humans, tularemia is easily treated if diagnosed early in dogs and cats.
If you suspect an animal might be sick, infectious, or has died of unknown causes, do not touch it!
If you find or observe more than one animal (in the same area) that has died or is sick, call the Health Department at (970) 498-6775. On weekends or holidays, call Animal Control for assistance at (970) 226-3647
Not all animals will be picked up and/or tested. Once it is established that tularemia is present in an area, testing more animals is not helpful. If you live in an area where tularemia has been confirmed, follow prevention precautions with your family and your pets.