Clear Creek County Public Health has identified the first human case of Tularemia in the County this year. A County resident was diagnosed Aug. 30, and is receiving antibiotic treatment and recovering at home. Exposure to the tularemia bacterium was most likely during landscaping activities.

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

Tularemia is a disease of animals and humans caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. Wild animals such as rabbits and rodents are especially susceptible to the disease. Humans can also be infected, and can get tularemia many different ways to include: handling bacteria contaminated vegetation or soil (the bacteria can enter the body through tiny cuts or abrasions); inhaling bacteria-laden dust stirred up during mowing or landscaping; being bitten by an infected arthropod (a deerfly, mosquito, or tick); handling infected animal carcasses; or consuming contaminated food or water. Transmission of Tularemia from person to person has not been reported.

Symptoms generally begin 3-14 days after exposure and can include fever, swollen lymph nodes, sores or lesions where the bacteria entered the body, a dry cough, sore throat and/or chest pain . Other common symptoms are diarrhea, nausea and/or vomiting. Persons who develop these symptoms after engaging in these types of activities should consult with their healthcare provider.

Tularemia occurs year-round throughout the U.S. except in Hawaii. Before 2014, Colorado had only a few cases of human Tularemia every year. As of Aug. 31, 2015, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has identified 40 cases of human Tularemia. This is half the total human tularemia cases reported during the past decade (82).

“Residents should take preventive measures when gardening, doing yard work, or recreating in areas where wild rabbits or rodents may be present,” said Tami Bradley, County Public Health Nurse. “People engaging in small game hunting should also be mindful of Tularemia risk and only hunt and consume healthy appearing animals,” Bradley added.