At least 15 human cases of tularemia have been reported in Colorado this year, which is five times the average for the state.
Tularemia is a bacterial disease that can cause high fever, open sores on the skin, eye irritation and swelling, and swollen lymph nodes among other symptoms. Eleven of the 15 reported human cases have been hospitalized for the disease.
Beavers located south of Breckenridge in Summit County recently tested positive for tularemia, which is potentially-life threatening, and can also infect dogs, cats, rabbits, hares and voles.
“We’re encouraging Summit County residents and visitors to avoid handling sick or dead animals and to stay away from potentially contaminated areas, evidenced by the presence of dead animals,” said Summit County Public Health Nurse Steph Stookey. “Given the rise in cases this year, it’s important to take necessary precautions.”
Humans can become infected by breathing in the bacteria during outdoor activities in areas where small animals with the disease have died. Infections can also occur by drinking contaminated water and coming in contact with contaminated soil. Person-to-person transmission is not possible, the health department said.
People working in these areas have a higher risk for inhaling the airborne bacteria, the health department said. Antibiotics are usually successful at treating the disease.