This sign was spotted July 3 just off of Lands End Road at the base of the Grand Mesa. What is Tularemia, and what should you be watching for?

As recently as May of this year, rabbit carcasses have been found in Western Colorado carrying the infectious disease.

What exactly is Tularemia? According to Wikipedia:

Tularemia is a serious infectious disease caused by the intracellular bacterium Francisella tularensis. It causes fever, and sometimes ulceration at the site of entry and/or swelling of nearby lymph nodes. It can cause severe pneumonia.

Not more than 200 feet from the sign, this dead animal was spotted along the trail.

Lands End Dead Animal
Waylon Jordan

According to the sign, the infection can be spread by ticks and deer fly, as well as close contact with rabbits, prairie dogs, and coyotes. Needless to say, most of us don't have close contact with coyotes. Ticks and deer fly, on the other hand, are a different matter.

What exactly are deer flies? Are you familiar with the common looking flies that land on you and proceed to have lunch? By lunch, I don't mean a picnic basket or drive thru. In this case, YOU are the lunch. They bite, and the bite hurts. That's a deer fly.

What symptoms should you watch for? Most infections in humans become apparent after three to five days. In most cases, signs include fever, lethargy, loss of appetite, signs of sepsis, and possibly death. Mammals other than humans usually don't develop the skin ulcerations.

Upon seeing this sign accompanied by the dead animal, it seemed wise to lay down the boogie and get out of the area. In the short distance between the animal and the main road, a pop-up camper was spotted. This may not have been the ideal vacation spot.

Lands End Road Map
Google Maps

I don't mean to be an alarmist, but it seems safe to say the sign was placed there for a reason. Be careful out there. Cover up, use bug spray, and while you probably don't go around handling dead animals, this would be a particularly good time to avoid the activity.

Now for the good news. Tularemia is treatable. Should you notice the symptoms listed above, contact your healthcare provider.

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