Tularemia is on the rise throughout Colorado as evidenced by the increased incidence of infection in wildlife, domestic animals and humans in 2014. Causing a zoonosis frequently referred to as ‘rabbit fever,’ the bacterium can infect over one hundred species of wild mammals, birds and insects. The disease is maintained in rabbit and rodent populations and is transmitted between animals by insect bites, direct transmission, and inhalation or ingestion of the bacteria. The infective dose of the bacterium is very small and it can persist for long periods of time in the environment in water, soil and carcasses.
Hantavirus cases occur year-round, but most people are exposed during the spring and summer months. Hantavirus symptoms begin one to six weeks (average 2 weeks) after exposure to infected rodents or their excreta (urine, droppings, or saliva) and often associated with domestic, occupational, or recreational activities. Although not all patients will give a history of rodent exposure, reports of increases in mouse populations around their residence or exposure to mice infested buildings are common among Hantavirus patients.
Most animal-borne diseases occur more often during the spring and summer months, when people tend to be outdoors more often and wild animals and insects are active. JCPH recommends everyone help control the presence of rodents and mosquitoes around their home; and, when heading outdoors, particularly to areas where wild animals and insects are active, wear insect repellent, appropriate clothing and protect your pets from fleas and ticks. Remember not to handle sick or dead animals or animal waste. A few precautions go a long way towards preventing animal-borne disease. To learn more about animal-borne diseases, please visit our website.