Fever, headache, chills, painful lymph glands - these are just a few symptoms one may see when coming down with tularemia; unfortunately, it's been confirmed that one Larimer County resident contracted a lung infection from tularemia-causing bacteria.

According to a news release from the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment, they confirmed the patient may have been exposed to tularemia-causing bacteria while mowing the yard or gardening at home in an urban subdivision, which contributed to the developed lung infection.

Tularemia-causing bacteria can often contaminate soil through droppings or urine of sick animals, most commonly rabbits and hares. When a person mows, blows leaves, or turns up soil, the bacteria can aerosolize and be inhaled, causing pneumonic tularemia.

The department says all warm-blooded animals are at risk, including pets and livestock. But the bacteria normally occurs in rabbits as well as small rodents, voles, muskrats, and beavers. The bacteria shed by animals can last in soil or water for weeks, and takes very few bacteria to cause an infection.

Symptoms of tularemia may include fever, chills, headache, swollen and painful lymph glands, and fatigue. If contracted though the bite of an infected insect or from entering a cut or scratch, it can cause skin ulcers or pustules and swollen glands. Eating or drinking food and water containing the bacteria could produce a throat infection, mouth ulcers, stomach pain, diarrhea, and vomiting.

The Larimer County Department of Public Health advises the public to do the following to help prevent ingesting tularemia-causing bacteria:

  • Wear gloves while gardening or planting trees; always wash hands before eating or touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Wear a dust mask when mowing or blowing vegetation, or excavating/tilling soil.
  • Wear insect repellent effective against ticks, biting flies, and mosquitoes (DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 are listed as being good choices).
  • Don't go barefoot on grassy lawns, especially if dead rabbits or rodents have been seen in the neighborhood.

If left untreated, tularemia can lead to hospitalization and may be fatal if not diagnosed and treated properly.