A Mesa County woman has contracted the bacterial infection, tularemia, according to the Mesa County Health Department Friday, becoming the second human tularemia case reported in the county in the past decade.

Image/Gorman Lewis, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Image/Gorman Lewis, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Health officials say she was likely exposed through a bite from a deer fly or tick while on public lands near the Colorado River in Mesa County.

Mesa County Health Department and The Bureau of Land Management would like to remind residents that the bacteria that causes tularemia has been found in rabbits in Mesa County and may affect squirrels, beaver, muskrats and other rodents, as well as pets and some livestock. To date, 22 animals have tested positive for tularemia, half of them being rabbits.

LISTEN: Colorado Department of Health Public Health Veterinarian, Dr. Jennifer House discusses 2014 tularemia spike

According to The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment data published, there has been 63 human tularemia cases reported in the state since 2005 with 1/3 of that total occurring in 2015 alone.

People can get tularemia, or Rabbit fever, if they handle infected animals, such as rabbits, rodents or hares, or are bitten by ticks or deer flies. They also can be exposed by touching contaminated soil, drinking contaminated water or inhaling bacteria.

Anyone who becomes ill after exposure to a sick or dead animal, or after spending time in areas where sick or dead wild animals have been seen, should talk to a health care provider about the possibility of tularemia. Tularemia is treatable with antibiotics.

Symptoms of tularemia include abrupt onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, vomiting, dry cough and difficulty breathing. Other symptoms are skin ulcers, swollen and painful lymph glands, inflamed eyes, sore throat, mouth sores, diarrhea or pneumonia. Tularemia often is overlooked as a diagnosis because it is rare, and the symptoms are similar to other diseases. The incubation period (from being exposed to becoming ill) for tularemia is typically 3 to 5 days, but can range from 1 to 14 days.

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