Gilpin County Historic Courthouse front porch/entrance will be closed May 16 to June 17. Signs will redirect visitors.


PUBLIC HEALTH NOTICE May 10, 2024 - Tularemia

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  • A dead beaver tested positive for tularemia near a private community lake on May 2, 2024.
  • The infected animal has been removed and properly disposed of as of May 9, 2024.
  • Although the last time an animal tested positive for tularemia in Gilpin County was in October 2019, it is possible that other animals have experienced illness or death without being detected.
  • The bacteria that cause tularemia are endemic (native) to Colorado and Gilpin County. Under the right conditions it can persist for long periods of time in soil, water, or dead animals. It is cold tolerant.
  • Pets are at risk for tularemia exposure if they contact or ingest sick or dead rabbits or rodents, are bitten by infected deer flies or ticks, or ingest or inhale contaminated water or soil.
  • All suspected human and animal cases of tularemia must be reported immediately to public health.

Tularemia is a serious disease caused by a bacterial infection. Tularemia is endemic throughout Colorado. Rabbits, hares and rodents, such as mice, voles, muskrats, ground squirrels, and beavers, are known to harbor the bacteria. Tularemia can also affect cats and dogs - pets with tularemia generally have a history of roaming and hunting.

Public health officials recommend the following precautions:

  • Avoid all contact with wild animals or rodents, including squirrels and rabbits; do not feed or handle them. If a dead animal must be moved, place it in a garbage bag using a long-handled shovel, and place the bag in an outdoor garbage can.
  • Do not wear sandals or walk barefoot in an area where animals have been seen sick or dead. The tularemia bacteria can persist in the environment, such as soil and water, for several months after it is detected.
  • Stay out of areas inhabited by wild animals or rodents. If you must enter areas frequented by wild rodents, always wear insect repellent that is effective against ticks, biting flies, and mosquitoes and contains DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
  • Do not mow over animal carcasses, and consider using a dust mask when mowing.
  • Prevent pets from hunting or eating wild rodents or rabbits. Infected pets, such as cats, may transmit the disease to people. Contact a veterinarian if a pet becomes ill.

Symptoms of tularemia include an abrupt onset of fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough, difficulty breathing, bloody sputum, and respiratory failure. Symptoms also include skin ulcers, swollen and painful lymph glands, inflamed eyes, sore throat, mouth sores, diarrhea, or pneumonia. Tularemia is treatable when detected early. Tularemia is often overlooked as a diagnosis because it is rare, and the symptoms are similar to other diseases. Public health officials recommend that anyone who becomes ill after possible exposure to a sick or dead animal should ask their health care providers about the possibility of tularemia.

For questions about tularemia in Gilpin County, call or email Alisa Witt, Director of Public Health at 303-582-5803 from Mon-Thu 7:30 am to 5:30 pm. Messages will be returned promptly.

For questions about tularemia in Colorado, call CDPHE (state health department) at 303-692-2700.