Bacteria Water

First case of tularemia found in Wheat Ridge resident, Jefferson County health officials say – Denver7

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — A human case of tularemia, a bacterial disease that mostly spreads between rodents and insects, has been found in Jefferson County, public health officials said earlier this week.

The case was reported in a Wheat Ridge resident and was the first human cause of tularemia in the county in 2024, according to a spokesperson with Jefferson County Public Health.

The disease, also known as “rabbit fever,” is caused by the bacterium Fransicella tularensis and mostly affects rodents and rabbits, as well as insects such as ticks and deerflies. It can be transmitted to humans, however, through the bites of infected animals or insects, as well as through the ingesting contaminated water or food and airborne bacteria.

“While tularemia is rare, it is important for residents to be aware of the symptoms and take preventive measures,” said Rachel Reichardt, an environmental health specialist with Jefferson County Public Health. “Prompt treatment with antibiotics is effective, so early diagnosis and medical attention are crucial.”

Symptoms include fever, non-healing skin ulcer at the site of infection and swollen and painful lymph glands, the spokesperson said.

If the infection is caused by ingesting contaminated food or water, the symptoms include a sore throat, mouth sores, abdominal pain and diarrhea. If bacteria are inhaled, pneumonia can develop with symptoms including fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, dry cough and progressive weakness, the spokesperson added.

County health officials recommend residents take the following steps to prevent exposure:

  • Use insect repellent during all outdoor activity.
  • Avoid all contact with wild rodents.
  • Do not feed or entice any rodent or rabbit into your yard or patio.
  • Eliminate piles of lumber, trash and weeds around your home.
  • Avoid touching sick or dead animals or wear gloves if necessary.
  • Do not mow over dead animals.
  • Do not drink untreated surface water (lakes, ponds, rivers).
  • Be sure to cook meat thoroughly before eating.
  • Keep pets on a leash while in areas where contact with wildlife is possible.
  • Consult veterinarian for any pet interaction.
  • Provide immediate veterinary care for sick pets and do not handle sick pets without using hand and face protection.

Tularemia can be treated successfully and cured, but you’re advised to see your healthcare provider if you experience any symptoms associated with tularemia after being in areas where contact with wildlife is possible.

Only nine human cases of tularemia were found in Colorado last year, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

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