A dead rabbit in Whitewater has tested positive for tularemia. A Mesa County couple found the carcass on their property and called Mesa County Public Health (MCPH) after learning about the disease, also known as rabbit fever, in 2016.

“We had heard about it on the Redlands last year and decided that if we ever found any dead rabbits on our property, we’d call,” said Whitewater resident Kandi Wallace.

Kandi said she and her husband Chad Wallace found the rabbit and called MCPH to find out if they should bring it in for testing. The epidemiology team said yes and gave them instructions on how to safely bag the carcass.

“The whole process was really easy. You want to get (the carcass) out of there as soon as possible, anyway, so get it to Mesa County Public Health,” Kandi said. “If (tularemia) is in your area, you want to let people know.”

Tularemia has been identified in Whitewater and in neighborhoods just east and just west of the Colorado National Monument. If you live in these areas, simply remove the carcass safely from your property, as testing in those areas is no longer needed.

It’s important to remember that no matter where you live in Mesa County, if you see multiple dead animals on or around your property, call MCPH right away, as this could mean unusual disease activity.

The Wallaces see rabbits and prairie dogs on their property regularly this time of year, but this was the first time they’d ever found a carcass. Thanks to Kandi and Chad, residents know that tularemia is definitely in the Whitewater area and can take the proper precautions.

Avoid being exposed to tularemia:

  • Do not handle or feed wild animals.
  • Use an Environmental Protection Agency repellent effective against ticks and mosquitoes.
  • Wear long pants, long sleeves, and long socks to keep tick 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 a long-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. Contact your health care provider if you notice symptoms including infected ulcer-like bite, swollen glands, fever, dry cough, body aches and headaches.