The Larimer County Department of Health and Environment confirmed a second human case of tularemia in a county resident hospitalized during the month of August. Like the first Larimer County case, this resident was probably infected while mowing tall grasses in an area where rabbits had previously been present.
Residents are advised that tularemia-causing bacteria is may be present in small animals—especially rabbits and hares—along the Front Range.
Tularemia is a bacterial infection most commonly transmitted to humans that have handled infected animals. Infection can also arise from the bite of infected insects (most commonly ticks and deer flies), by exposure to contaminated food, water, or soil by eating, drinking, or direct contact with breaks in the skin, and by inhaling aerosolized particles carrying the bacteria (through mowing or blowing vegetation).
Typical signs of infection in humans may include fever, chills, headache, swollen and painful lymph glands, and fatigue. If tularemia is caused by the bite of an infected insect or from bacteria entering a cut or scratch, it usually causes a skin ulcer and swollen glands. Eating or drinking food or water containing the bacteria may produce a throat infection, mouth ulcers, stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Inhaling the bacteria may cause an infection of the lungs with chest pain and coughing. Tularemia can be effectively treated with antibiotics, therefore should you have any of these early signs, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
What to do If you see a dead animal:
• If you suspect an animal might be sick, infectious, or has died of unknown causes, DO NOT TOUCH IT!
• If you find or observe more than one animal (in the same area) that has died or is sick, call the Health Department at 970-498-6775.
• Not all animals will be picked up and/or tested. Once it is established that tularemia is present in an area, testing more animals is not helpful. If you live in an area where tularemia has been confirmed, follow prevention precautions with your family and your pets.
Steps people can take to prevent human tularemia:
• Stay out of areas where wild rabbits or rodents are present when possible. Never try to feed wildlife.
• Avoid handling any sick or dead animals (including mammals and birds)
• Wear an insect repellent effective against ticks, biting flies and mosquitoes if you are in areas where sick animals have been found. Repellents that contain DEET are a good choice for humans.
• Wear shoes and do not go barefoot in an area where rabbits have died. The bacteria can persist in the environment for a month or two, so these precautions should be taken for several weeks.
• Consider wearing a dust mask when mowing or blowing vegetation in areas where rabbit die-offs have occurred
• Take steps to prevent your pets from becoming infected. They can infect you.
If you need to remove a dead animal
• Apply an insect repellent against fleas and ticks prior to proceeding with the removal.
• Use a shovel and place the body in a plastic bag.
• If you have noted other dead animals in the area, call the Health Dept.(970-498-6775) or Animal Control (970-226-3647) to see if they want to retrieve the animal for testing. Not all animals will be retrieved or tested.
• If the animal is not needed for testing, dispose of it in an outdoor trash receptacle.
• Wash your hands immediately.