Casey Kelly

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August 16, 2014
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Man hospitalized for tularemia may have been exposed near Windsor

A Larimer County man was hospitalized earlier this month for tularemia, which he may have been exposed to after mowing a property northwest of Windsor, local health officials said Tuesday.

Tularemia is a bacterial infection most often transmitted to people who have handled infected animals and is characterized by symptoms of fever, sore throat and swollen glands, according to a joint press release issued by the Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment and the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment.

According to the release, health officials believe the man was infected after mowing the property where rabbits had been seen frequently earlier this summer.

The Weld County Health Department inspected the property and found no rabbit carcasses or conclusive evidence of the disease. However, the department believes the property was likely the site of the exposure.

After mowing the property, the man developed a fever, sore throat and swollen glands, which he treated with antibiotics. When those treatments didn’t work, he was hospitalized in Fort Collins, where doctors found he had tularemia.

He has since been released from the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery, the release states.

“(Tularemia) is not that common, but it’s not that unusual either,” Weld County health department spokesman Eric Aakko said. “Last year, we didn’t have any cases of tularemia.”

Weld County health department lab manager Cheryl Darnell said the last human case of tularemia in Weld County was in 2011 and it was the only case in the county that year. In that case, the man may have contracted the disease from an insect bite, Darnell said, adding that ticks and deer flies can also carry the disease.

“We are always looking for it, but it’s rare we actually see any cases,” Darnell said. “It’s popping up all over Colorado this year, possibly due to the wet weather we’ve had.”

Recent die-offs of wild rabbits in Fort Collins and Jefferson County were found to be caused by tularemia and the first human case was found in Broomfield July 16 in a subdivision where many rabbits were found dead, according to the health department release.

Health officials from Larimer and Weld counties are reminding residents to take precautions against tularemia by avoiding sick or dead animals and keeping pets away from wild animals.

Aside from dead animals, the disease is also found in the urine and feces of infected animals and can persist in the environment for up to a month.

According to the health department, typical signs of infection vary based on the site of infection, but generally include fever, chills, and swollen glands. 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 at the site of entry and swelling of nearby glands. Eating food or drinking water containing the bacteria may produce a throat infection, stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting. If inhaled through aerosols created by mowing, the bacteria can enter the lungs and cause coughing, chest pain, and pneumonia.

Health officials said tularemia may be life-threatening but can be effectively treated with antibiotics, and medical attention should be immediately sought if someone suspects exposure.

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My Windsor Now Updated Aug 16, 2014 07:29PM Published Aug 16, 2014 07:29PM Copyright 2014 My Windsor Now. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.