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Small game animals can be infected with tularemia, a bacterial disease that causes illness and death in rabbits and rodents.
People can get tularemia if they handle infected animals or are bitten by ticks or deer flies.
So far in 2014, Colorado has had 22 animals test positive for tularemia: 18 rabbits, three mice and one cat. In Mesa County, two rabbits tested positive for the disease.
Follow these tips to hunt healthy:
  • Harvest only small game that looks and acts healthy. Beware of lazy rabbits!
  • Avoid hunting in areas where dead small game has been found.
  • Wear gloves when handling small game animals, and wash your hands after removing your gloves.
  • Cook all game meat thoroughly to 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Call our communicable disease line at 254-4120 if you notice sick or dead rabbits or rodents.
Symptoms of tularemia include abrupt onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, vomiting, dry cough and difficulty breathing. Other symptoms are skin ulcers, swollen and painful lymph glands, inflamed eyes, sore throat, mouth sores, diarrhea or pneumonia. Tularemia often is overlooked as a diagnosis because it is rare, and the symptoms are similar to other diseases.
Tularemia is treatable with antibiotics. Talk to your health care provider if you suspect tularemia.