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1 person sick with tularemia in Larimer County

Posted: 10:59 AM, Jun 17, 2016
Updated: 2016-06-17 16:59:55Z

A resident in Larimer County is the first person to get tularemia this year.

Tularemia, also known as rabbit fever, can be carried by rodents, birds, flies and ticks.

The patient, who is not being identified, developed a lung infection, and may have been exposed while mowing the yard or gardening at home, according to the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment.

Officials said the patient lives in an urban subdivision.

Humans can become infected with tularemia through insect bites, by touching an infected animal or inhaling the bacteria.

"Soil can be contaminated by tularemia-causing bacteria from the droppings or urine of sick animals, most often rabbits," according to the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment. "When a person mows, blows leaves, or turns up the soil, these bacteria can aerosolize and be inhaled, causing pneumonic tularemia."

Typical signs of infection in humans may include fever, chills, headache, swollen and painful lymph glands, and fatigue.  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.

The health dept. recommends:

  • Wear gloves when gardening or planting trees, and always wash hands before eating or putting hands to mouth, nose, or eyes
  • Wear a dust mask when mowing or blowing vegetation, or excavating or tilling soil
  • Wear an insect repellent effective against ticks, biting flies and mosquitoes (DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 are good choices)
  • Wear shoes, rather than going barefoot, on grassy lawns, especially if dead rabbits or rodents have been seen in the neighborhood
  • Never touch dead animals with bare hands