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Public Health - News

Posted on: June 10, 2020

Public Health Reminds Residents and Visitors to Take Steps to Prevent Animal-Borne Disease

a photo of a desert cottontail

Summer is almost here and wildlife is out and about. With the warmer temperatures and sunshine, people are likely to be spending more time outside and may even spot some wildlife. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) reminds residents to be aware of animal-borne diseases and how to prevent them.

Animal-borne diseases are those that are transmitted from animals to humans and are sometimes referred to as zoonotic diseases. In Colorado, spring and summer tend to be common times of year for these diseases to spread, as animals are more active and people spend more time outdoors. 

Some of the animal-borne diseases that could be seen in Jefferson County include:

  • Rabies is an infectious viral disease that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals. Any wild mammal can have rabies and transmit it to people through a bite. A person can also contract rabies by handling an animal that has been bitten, such as their pet. In Jeffco, the most common cases of rabies have been among bats and skunks. Rabies is fatal if left untreated.
  • Tularemia is a bacterial disease associated with various animal species, especially rodents, rabbits, hares and beavers. Humans can get tularemia from a bite of an infected insect (usually a tick or deerfly), handling animal carcasses, consuming contaminated food or water or inhaling the bacteria. Tularemia is treatable with appropriate antibiotics.
  • Hantaviruses are a family of viruses carried by rodents (certain rats and mice) that can infect humans with hantavirus disease, including hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). It is most often spread to humans through urine, feces and saliva and, less frequently, by a bite. HPS is rare but potentially life threatening and has no specific treatment, cure or vaccine.
  • Plague is an infectious bacterial disease of animals and humans. People usually get plague from being bitten by a plague-carrying rodent flea or from handling an infected animal. Plague can be life threatening if not treated promptly with antibiotics that are effective against plague.

There are steps residents and visitors can take to protect everyone’s safety, including their pets:

  • Do not touch wildlife. 
  • Do not handle or consume sick or dead wildlife.
  • Do not allow pets to come in contact with or consume wildlife carcasses.
  • Provide pets with proper protection from fleas and ticks.
  • Keep ALL pets up-to-date on necessary vaccines, including the rabies vaccine. This includes indoor cats.
  • Report unusual animal behavior to local animal control (such as seeing skunks out in the day or erratic behavior).
  • Bats can enter homes — protect all outer openings in your home to prevent them from entering.
  • Work to control the presence of rodents and mosquitoes around the home.
  • Wear insect repellent and appropriate clothing.
  • If you see multiple dead wild rabbits, please report it to Jefferson County Public Health Environmental Health Services at 303-232-6301.

For more information on animal borne-diseases, visit https://www.jeffco.us/2363/Animal-Borne-Disease or contact the Jefferson County Environmental Health Services team at 303-232-6301.


About Jefferson County Public Health

Public health is what we as a society do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our neighborhoods and communities. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is a nationally accredited health department committed to promoting and protecting health across the lifespan for all people through prevention, education and partnerships. To learn more about JCPH visit https://www.jeffco.us/public-health. You can also follow JCPH on Twitter @JeffcoPH, Instagram @JeffcoPH and Facebook @jeffcopublichealth.

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