Weld County Public Health officials reported Thursday that two men have contracted the bacterial zoonotic infection, tularemia, or rabbit fever. The two have been identified as a 79-year old from Milliken and an 80-year old from Greeley.
It is noted that the likely source of the infection was via mowing or working in their yards. Health officials said as of yesterday that one man is hospitalized, while the other is recovering at home.
“We are seeing an unusually high number of human tularemia cases along the Front Range this year,” Dr. Mark E. Wallace, executive director of the Weld County Health Department, said in a statement. “The public really needs to be cautious and not get exposed to this disease.”
Tularemia, or rabbit fever 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).
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 watercontaining 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. Untreated tularemia can lead to hospitalization and may even be fatal.