Mesa County health officials are reporting the second human case of tularemia in a county woman and believe she was likely exposed to the infection through a bite from a deer fly or tick while spending time on the Ruby-Horsethief section of the Colorado River.

Deer fly, Chrysops lateralis/CDC
Deer fly, Chrysops lateralis/CDC

Earlier this month, a Mesa County woman became the second human tularemia case reported in the county in the past decade.

Two travelers from out-of-state, one adult and one child, were also diagnosed with tularemia after spending time along the Colorado River around the same time period Mesa County residents were infected.

More than 20 tularemia cases have been reported in Colorado so far this year.

Mesa County Health Department and the BLM are urging residents to take precautions to reduce chances of being infected with tularemia.

Take these precautions to avoid being exposed to tularemia:

  • Do not handle or feed wild animals.
  • Use insect repellent with DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  • Wear long pants, long sleeves, and long socks to keep tick and deer flies off your skin.
  • Avoid grassy and brushy areas when recreating outdoors when hiking, picnicking, or during any activity that can disturb soil, causing tularemia bacteria to become airborne.
  • If you need to dispose of an animal carcass on your property, wear gloves and use a long-handled shovel to place it in a garbage bag, and then place the bag in an outdoor garbage can.
  • Do not handle or drink untreated water.
  • Protect your pets. Prevent them from hunting or eating wild animals. Contact a veterinarian if your pet becomes ill with a high fever and/or swollen lymph nodes.

The BLM and Mesa County Health Department have posted signs warning of tularemia activity in areas of public lands where the infection has been reportedly contracted.

Tularemia is treatable. Contact your health care provider if you notice symptoms including sudden fever, chills, headaches, diarrhea, muscle aches, joint pain, swollen glands, dry cough, progressive weakness, an infected ulcer-like bite and difficulty breathing.