GUNNISON, Colo. – A disease known as tularemia has been found recently in dead beavers in the Gunnison area, so Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Gunnison County Public Health Department are advising caution to those who might need to handle dead animals. Humans can contract the bacterium that causes the disease.
The disease, also known as Rabbit Fever, is carried by rabbits, beavers and small rodents. It can be transmitted to humans through cuts in the skin, through mucous membranes and through inhalation. Symptoms in humans include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and development of skin lesions. It is easily treated with antibiotics.
Tularemia does not pose a grave threat to humans, but if symptoms occur they must be treated quickly. Tularemia cannot be spread from one human to another. Children should be told never to touch a dead animal, and not to attempt to touch any type of wildlife.
Health and wildlife officials recommend that anyone handling small animals should wear latex gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, and apply insect repellant to help avoid contact with ticks and fleas on the carcass. Wash hands and utensils thoroughly after field-dressing any animal.
If you prepare meat from small animals for consumption, be sure that it is cooked thoroughly.
Tularemia is found during warm-weather months; a hard freeze usually kills the insects that carry the bacteria. But caution should be observed at all times.
For more information, contact Gunnison County Public Health at 970-641-0209.