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Tularemia has been confirmed in a second Mesa County, Colorado woman. She was likely exposed through a bite from a deer fly or tick while on public lands in the Ruby-Horsethief section of the Colorado River in Mesa County, Colorado. Two other travelers from out of the area, one adult and one child, were also diagnosed with the infection after spending time along the Colorado River around the same time period that the Mesa County residents were infected.
While there have yet to be any confirmed cases of Tularemia in Grand County, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Southeast Utah Health Department urge residents to take precautions while in areas where wildlife is active. Beth Ransel, BLM Moab Field Manager said that “The BLM strongly encourages all visitors to areas where wildlife is active to take precautions to avoid exposure to tularemia and for those that believe they may have been exposed to seek timely medical attention.”
Tularemia is caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. The disease mainly affects rabbits, beavers, muskrats, and other wild rodents. Humans and pets can become exposed by direct contact with an infected animal (e.g. during skinning of infected game), by ingesting contaminated food or water, or being bitten by infected insects (especially ticks and deer flies). Clinical signs in humans and animals can occur 1-10 days after exposure, and symptoms can include fever, depression, and weakness, swelling of lymph nodes, and occasionally vomiting and diarrhea. A skin ulcer may develop at the site of infection.
Tularemia is treatable. Contact your health care provider if you notice symptoms including sudden fever, chills, headaches, diarrhea, muscle aches, joint pain, swollen glands, dry cough, progressive weakness, an infected ulcer-like bite and difficulty breathing.
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