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Public Health - News

Posted on: June 2, 2021

Prevent Diseases Carried by Insects and Animals This Summer


Jefferson County, Colo. — Summer is here, and that means sunshine, hiking, barbeques and enjoying the great outdoors. Insects and animals are also coming out to explore this time of year, so Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) encourages community members to remember to take precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones from the serious diseases some can carry. 


In Colorado, there are several diseases that can be transmitted by insects and animals you need to know about.


Most common insect- or animal-borne diseases in Colorado:

  • Rabies is a preventable viral disease most often transmitted through the bite or saliva of a rabid animal. When not treated, rabies can cause serious illness and is almost always fatal. It is important to take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones – furry friends included – against rabies. Rabies has been detected in most terrestrial wild animals and has been detected in unvaccinated cats and dogs in Colorado. Bats, skunks and raccoons test positive for rabies in Jefferson County every year, although any mammal can get rabies.
    1. How to prevent rabies:
      • Vaccinate all cats, dogs, ferrets, and valuable livestock against rabies. Keeping your pets up to date on their rabies vaccination will prevent them from acquiring the disease from wildlife, and thereby prevent possible transmission to your family or other people.
      • Bats are found indoors every year so even your indoor cats, dogs, and ferrets should be vaccinated for rabies.
      • If you clean up your pet after a known or suspect encounter with a wild animal you should cover all exposed skin with a long sleeve shirt and gloves and use a face mask to cover your mouth and nose and safety glasses to protect your eyes.
      • If bitten or scratched by a stray domestic animal or any wild animals, you should wash the wound with soap and water and contact your doctor about beginning the rabies Post-Exposure Prophylaxis.
      • Do not handle or feed wildlife, and leave young wild animals alone. If you think an animal is abandoned, call your local animal control or the Colorado Department of Wildlife. 
  • West Nile Virus is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes. West Nile Virus is found in Colorado every year. While most people have no symptoms at all, some people with the virus develop a fever, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint aches, which can progress to serious illness.  
    1. How to prevent West Nile Virus:
      • Use an Environmental Protection Agency-registered insect repellent with an approved active ingredient, such as DEET. When used as directed, EPA-registered insect repellents are proven safe and effective, even for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
        • You should choose the concentration of DEET in your bug spray that best fits the amount of time you’ll be spending outside. For example, if you’ll be spending 5 hours outside, choose an insect repellent with 25 percent DEET. If you’ll be spending less than an hour and a half, choose 5 percent DEET, because it lasts up to 90 minutes. Always follow instructions carefully.
      • You can use a product containing up to 30 percent DEET on any child over the age of 2 months of age, but don’t let them apply it themselves, and be sure everyone washes their hands well after application to prevent any of the insect repellent from getting in their eyes or mouths.
      • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks to keep your skin protected from insects. If you spritz your clothing with insect repellent, too, you’ll increase how much it protects you. Plus, the more skin you cover, the more protection you have from the harmful UVA and UVB rays that cause skin cancer.
      • Get rid of standing water and brush around your home. Even an aluminum can or a planter saucer can hold enough water for mosquitoes to lay their eggs. Dump standing water out routinely.


Other diseases to know about:

  • Tularemia is a bacterial disease that is spread to humans through the bites of infected ticks and direct exposure to infected mammals. Tularemia is also spread through deer fly bites and through handling infected animal tissue, such as when hunting or skinning rabbits or when eating under-cooked meat of infected animals. The most common symptoms are fever, chills, headache, body aches and feeling tired, which can last up to several weeks. Highly contagious and potentially fatal, tularemia like plague usually can be treated effectively with specific antibiotics if diagnosed early.
  • The bubonic plague is a bacterial disease that is spread by rodent fleas. People usually get plague from being bitten by a flea that is carrying the plague, or by handling an infected animal. Common symptoms are a sudden onset of severe discomfort, headache, chills, fever and pain in the lymph nodes. However, it’s important to note that plague cases are treatable in humans and household pets as long as caught early. While plague is rare in humans, we have seen cases in prairie dogs and squirrels in Jefferson County. 
  • Some mosquitoes can carry Zika, a virus that can be spread from mom to baby and cause birth defects. While the mosquitos that carry Zika do not live in Colorado, it’s important to protect yourself when traveling to areas like Mexico, the Caribbean and other areas of risk identified by the CDC. Symptoms of Zika are very similar to those of West Nile Virus.

“Come spring and early summer, we’re all ready to get outside and enjoy everything Colorado has to offer. By following these tips, you can protect yourself from animal- and insect-borne diseases and get the most out of your outdoor activities,” said Dave Volkel, Environmental Health Specialist at JCPH. “And, of course, if you think you may have a disease from the bite of an insect, see your healthcare provider right away. “


For more information about animal-borne and insect-borne diseases and how to stay safe this summer, visit our website or call JCPH at 303-271-5700.


More helpful tips
How to remove a tick:
  • Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  • Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
Protect your pets:
  • Have pets treated with a veterinarian administered flea and tick repellant.
  • Keep all pets up to date on their rabies vaccination to prevent them from acquiring the disease from wildlife.
  • Keep pets away from wild animals or animal carcasses.
Clean up after rodents:
  • Before cleaning, trap the rodents and seal up any entryways to ensure that no rodents can get in. Continue trapping for a week. 
  • Before starting clean up of the space, ventilate the space by opening the doors and windows for at least 30 minutes to allow fresh air to enter the area. 
  • Wear rubber, latex, or vinyl gloves when cleaning urine and droppings.
  • Spray the urine and droppings with a disinfectant or a mixture of bleach and water and let soak 5 minutes.
  • For more clean-up information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.



About Jefferson County Public Health 

Public health is what we 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 You can also follow JCPH on Twitter @JeffcoPH, Instagram @JeffcoPH and Facebook @jeffcopublichealth.

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