A total of 10 animals have tested positive for tularemia thus far in 2014 from Larimer County. Tularemia has been confirmed in nine local rabbits and one meadow mole. Tularemia may be causing animal die-offs all along the Front Range areas of the county. Infected animals have been confirmed in northwest Fort Collins. Tularemia has been found in pockets all over the county and this includes northwest Fort Collins, northeast Fort Collins near the Weld County line, southeast Fort Collins, northeast Loveland near Boyd Lake, southwest Loveland near Carter Lake, and southwest Berthoud.
Other diseases affecting rabbits and rodents, including plague, can cause die-offs as well, so pets and people should avoid contact with dead wildlife.
Larimer County has had three confirmed human cases of Tularemia this summer, and 11 cases have occurred statewide as of 9/25/14.
The public is urged to contact our department (970) 498-6775 to report multiple dead rabbits or rodents in an area. This is not a guarantee that the animal will be tested. Each report is evaluated on a case by case basis.
Please note: Not all animals reported to the Health Department or Animal Control will be picked up and/or tested. Wild animals die every day of many reasons, not just of tularemia. Please only report a die-off of multiple rabbits (more than one) in an area. Once tularemia has been confirmed in an area, further testing may not be useful and/or necessary.
Current risk: low, but present
The diagnosis of tularemia in nine wild rabbits and one meadow mole has prompted the Health Department to alert residents to take certain precautions. Larimer County residents are advised that tularemia-causing bacteria may be present in some local mammals — especially rabbits and hares. Residents may have noticed a die-off of rabbits in some areas over the summer.
Tularemia is a bacterial infection most commonly transmitted to humans that have handled infected animals. 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, and less commonly, by inhaling aerosolized particles carrying the bacteria (through mowing or blowing vegetation).
Typical signs of infection in humans are fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, chest pain, and coughing. 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 and swollen glands. Eating or drinking food or water containing the bacteria may produce a throat infection, stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Tularemia can be effectively treated with antibiotics, so if you should have any of these early signs, seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Dogs and cats also get tularemia by eating infected rabbits or other animals, by drinking contaminated surface water, through tick and deer fly bites, and though exposure to contaminated soil if the skin is broken. If your pet shows symptoms of illness which may include fever, loss of appetite, enlarged lymph nodes, ulcers on the mouth and tongue, draining abscesses, nasal and eye discharge, and skin sores, take it to the veterinarian promptly. As in humans, tularemia is easily treated if diagnosed early in dogs and cats.
Note: Not all animals will be picked up and/or tested. Once it is established that tularemia is present in an area, testing more animals is not helpful. If you live in an area where tularemia has been confirmed, follow prevention precautions with your family and your pets.