PUEBLO, Colo. — Public Health officials in Pueblo have issued an alert to residents of summertime illnesses, particularly those carried by wildlife and insects, and want the community to take steps to protect themselves.

The Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment (Public Health) said Rabies, tularemia, Plague, and West Nile virus are found in Pueblo County, especially during the summer. These diseases can be carried by insects and wildlife and transmitted to people.

Rabies and Tularemia have already been identified in Pueblo by Public Health in the last month, according to Public Health Program Manager Alicia Solis. Public Health is monitoring the county to identify cases and notify residents in areas of concern.

Public Health hopes the community will follow precautions, as exposure to Tularemia and Plague can happen in similar ways: by being bitten by an infected tick, flea, or deerfly, and by handling the remains of an infected animal.

“It is important for pet owners to keep their animals from roaming free as they can be exposed to tularemia and plague,” stated Solis. “Ensure your pets have flea and tick protection. Do not let them eat dead animals. If your pet stops eating or drinking or develops other symptoms, take the pet to the veterinarian promptly.”

Symptoms of tularemia and plague in humans usually occur 2-7 days after exposure, and may include:

  • sudden fever
  • chills
  • headaches
  • muscle aches 
  • cough
  • progressive weakness    

Other symptoms of tularemia and plague depend on how a person was exposed to the bacteria. These symptoms can include pneumonia, ulcers on the skin or mouth, swollen and painful lymph glands, and a sore throat. People who have been exposed to tularemia or plague should be treated as soon as possible. These diseases can be fatal if not treated with the right antibiotics.

Neither Tularemia nor Rabies can be transmitted from person to person, so those who have been exposed do not need to be isolated.

Pueblo Public Health recommends the following precautions:

  • Avoid all contact with wild animals; do not feed or handle them.
  • Never touch sick or dead animals with your bare hands. If an animal must be moved, wear gloves and use a long-handled shovel to place it in a garbage bag. Place the bag in an outdoor garbage can and then wash your hands.
  • Wear gloves and closed-toe shoes when gardening.
  • Do not mow over dead animals.
  • Avoid ticks and fleas. Wear insect repellent containing DEET or treat clothing with repellent containing permethrin, especially if in rodent infested areas like prairie dog colonies.
  • Avoid drinking unpurified water from streams or lakes and prevent your pets from doing the same.
  • Apply flea/tick protection to pets.
  • Prevent pets from hunting or eating wild animals.

Plague has been known to have devastating effects on prairie dog colonies. If you see dead prairie dogs, report it to Public Health by calling 719-583-4307 or emailing pueblohealthpio@pueblocounty.us.