Tularemia Confirmed in Rabbit Population at Gates of Lodore Campground

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Date: June 29, 2012
Contact: Dan Johnson, Chief of Interpretation and Visitor Services, (435) 781-7702
Contact: Joel Brumm, Resource Management Specialist, (970) 374-3055

Dinosaur, CO- On June 28, 2012, monument staff were notified by wildlife health officials with the National Park Service that a rabbit from the Gates of Lodore Campground at Dinosaur National Monument tested positive for tularemia in laboratory tests. Monument staff noticed several dead rabbits in the vicinity of the Gates of Lodore Campground starting last week and sent a specimen for analysis. Rabbits exhibiting the effects of tularemia, a naturally occurring disease that periodically strikes rabbits, hares, rodents, have only been found in the Gates of Lodore Campground. This campground is in the extreme northern part of Dinosaur approximately 106 miles north of the Canyon Visitor Center in Dinosaur, Colorado and 137 miles north of the Dinosaur Quarry near Jensen, Utah. There have been no confirmed cases or noticeable outbreaks in any other areas of the monument.

As mentioned previously, tularemia is a naturally occurring disease that periodically strikes rabbits, hares, rodents, and other small animals. It is present at all times, but usually only noticeable during severe outbreaks, which are marked by increased mortality rates in these small mammals. Since the threat to human health is considered minimal by health officials, the campground and boat launch for the Green River will remain open. Signs, informing visitors of the presence of tularemia will be posted in the campground and monument staff will make contact with visitors to let people know the disease is present in the area.

The disease is relatively rare among humans with less than 200 cases reported each year, but is a potentially serious illness if contracted. People can become infected with tularemia in several ways including being bitten by an infected tick, mosquito, deerfly or other insect; handling infected animal carcasses; breathing in the bacteria directly; or eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Symptoms of tularemia may include fever, chills, headaches, diarrhea, cough, and muscle aches. Symptoms usually appear 3 to 5 days after exposure to the bacteria, but can take as long as 14 days. Consult your doctor at the first sign of illness, as the disease can be successfully treated with antibiotics. Make sure to let your doctor know that you have been to an area where an outbreak of tularemia has occurred.

To minimize your risk of contracting tularemia, avoid contact with wild animals, use insect repellent containing DEET or permethrin, and use protective equipment (such as gloves, goggles, mask, etc.) when handling dead animals or mowing in areas where rabbits frequent. Be sure to cook your food thoroughly and that your water is obtained from a safe source. Pets are susceptible, can be carriers, and can transmit tularemia to humans either through insect bites or direct contact. Symptoms in pets may include fever, lack of appetite, lethargy, enlarged lymph nodes. Flea and tick control is recommended for pets as well as preventing them from eating or being in contact with infected animals. Note any change in the behavior of your pets or livestock, and consult a veterinarian if they develop unusual symptoms.

If you have any questions regarding information on tularemia at the Gates of Lodore Campground or need any other information on Dinosaur National Monument, call us at (435) 781-7700. You can also find us on facebook or follow DinosaurNPS on twitter.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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