September 23, 2018

Small Game Hunters Reminded of Tularemia Risk

Fall is the beginning of game hunting in many states. The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment is reminding hunters that many animals carry tularemia, a bacterial disease. It causes illness and death in rabbits and rodents. People get tularemia if they handle infected animals or are bitten by ticks or deer flies.

Wild rabbitState Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Jennifer House said, “we haven’t seen this many tularemia cases in Colorado since the 19802. In the last 10 years Colorado has averaged three human cases of tularemia a year. So far in 2014 we have had 11 and additional suspected cases are under investigation.” In Colorado, animals from 12 counties tested positive for the disease.

Public health officials say that hungers should only harvest small game that looks and acts healthy. Do not hunt in areas where dead small game has been found. Always wear gloves when handling small game animals, and wash your hands after you take off the gloves. Cook all game meat thoroughly to 160 to 170 °F. And notify the public health department or wildlife office if you see sick or dead rabbits or other rodents such as squirrels.

Symptoms of tularemia include abrupt fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, joint pain, dry cough, vomiting, and difficulty breathing. Other symptoms include skin ulcers, swollen and painful lymph glands, sore throat, inflamed eyes, mouth sores, diarrhea, or pneumonia. The illness is often misdiagnosed because it is rare and the symptoms mimic other illnesses. Nine of the eleven people infected with tularemia this year in Colorado had to be hospitalized. Tularemia is treated with antibiotics.

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