Rabbit with plague-like illness found in Pueblo

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PUEBLO, Colo. — Public Health officials announced Friday that a rabbit tested positive for an illness that “is similar to plague” in Pueblo.

The rabbit was found in Pueblo West in the 1000 Block of West Saginaw Drive, and tested positive for Tularemia. Though the bacterial illness occurs naturally in the U.S., it’s a condition that can be fatal to humans.

“Tularemia is similar to plague,” Heather Maio, director of the Environmental Health Division at the Pueblo City-County Health department, said. “It can be passed to humans or animals through the bite of infected insects — most commonly ticks and deer flies — and by handling infected, sick, or dead animals.”

The disease can also be passed to people or animals if they eat meat or drink water infected by the bacteria. It cannot, however, be passed from person to person.

Tularemia symptoms typically occur within 3-5 days after exposure and include sudden fever, headaches, diarrhea, muscle aches, dry cough and progressive weakness. The disease is fatal, Public Health officials said, if not treated with the right antibiotics.

Ticks in the area may pose the biggest threat to humans, so Public Health officials are advising locals and their pets to steer clear of heavily wooded areas where ticks thrive.