Five men, ages 56 to 80 throughout Weld County, have contracted the bacterial, zoonotic disease, tularemia. Health officials say it is likely they were exposed by while mowing or working in their yards.
The five cases were from Greeley, Erie, LaSalle, Milliken, and Longmont. Two were hospitalized and three recovered at home. One man remains hospitalized, but is in stable condition.
“This is a rare disease and to have five cases so far this year is highly unusual,” said Dr. Mark E. Wallace, MD MPH, Executive Director of the Weld County Health Department. “In an average year we have zero cases, last year we had one case.” Statewide, Colorado currently has 16 human cases, and in an average year there are less than 4 cases.
People become infected with tularemia through skin contact with contaminated soil or water, infected animal tissues or from bites of infected arthropods, most commonly ticks and deer flies. The bacteria can also be inhaled during mowing or gardening activities that create airborne dusts.