The Larimer County Department of Health and Environment has confirmed the first human case of tularemia or rabbit fever in Larimer County in 2015. This unidentified person may have been infected while planting trees or gardening.

How Do You Get Tularemia?

Tularemia can be transmitted to people who have handled infected animals, such as hunters. 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; or by inhaling particles carrying the bacteria (through mowing or blowing vegetation). Soil can be contaminated by bacteria from the droppings or urine of sick animals, most likely rabbits.  This bacteria can persist in the soil or water for weeks, and it takes very few bacteria to cause an infection. It can enter the skin through tiny cuts or abrasions.

Hand of man diagnosed with Tularemia
Larimer County Department of Health and Environment

Symptoms of Tularemia

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 or pustule 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.

How to Treat Tularemia

Tularemia can be effectively treated with antibiotics, therefore should you have any of these early signs, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Untreated tularemia can lead to hospitalization and may even be fatal.

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