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Health Officials Confirm Rabbit Fever Death In Coconino County

Health officials confirmed a person has died from rabbit fever in Coconino County. This is the first case of tularemia, or rabbit fever, in the county this year and the first death in more than a decade.

There were two cases of the illness last year, but neither was fatal. Division Manager for Coconino County Public Health Services Randy Phillips said the bacteria can be passed to humans through insect bites and drinking contaminated water, but the most common way is through animals.

“If you’re handling dead animals or you’re hunting rabbits and you’re skinning the rabbit for food that certainly increases your risk,” Phillips said.

Keeping pets on a leash and treating them for fleas when out in the woods can also prevent contracting tularemia.

Phillips said symptoms can include skin ulcers, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches or pneumonia. He said if it’s properly treated as soon as possible, there’s a high survival rate.

Details about the death were not released.

Katy Burge was an intern at KJZZ in 2016.