Health officials in Mesas County, Colorado announced today the first human tularemia case of 2016. The patient was likely exposed to the disease, often referred to as Rabbit Fever, in the Redlands area.
The Mesa County Health Department says rabbits from the east side of the Redlands and southwest of Fruita have tested positive for tularemia this summer.
Tularemia can be transmitted to people, such as hunters, who 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, putting hands to eyes, nose, or mouth before washing after outdoor activities; by direct contact with breaks in the skin; or by inhaling particles carrying the bacteria (through mowing or blowing vegetation and excavating soil).
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.
Tularemia can be effectively treated with antibiotics. Untreated tularemia can lead to hospitalization and may be fatal if not diagnosed and treated appropriately.
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