Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Aurelia Pollard
Editorial@lhvc.com 

Rain and heat bring out rodents and disease in Boulder County

 


Spring and summer are months that most people look forward to, but they can also have some negative aspects.

Skunks, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, rabbits and rodents have babies; bats begin their spring migration; and mosquitoes establish their breeding sites in standing water. This burst of life not only brings about more critters, but critters that can carry diseases such as rabies, plague, tularemia, hantavirus and West Nile virus (WNV) that can be dangerous to humans and pets.

“We’ve had another spring with plenty of rainfall and an increase in vegetation that can cause rodent and rabbit populations to increase,” Carol McInnes, Boulder County Public Health environmental health specialist, said in a recent press release. “When these animal populations are high we often see outbreaks of disease in prairie dog colonies, rodents and rabbits in neighborhoods.”

Locally, few animals have been found to be carrying diseases this year. One skunk in Lafayette and one raccoon in Boulder tested positive for rabies, and as of May 18th, 23 animals throughout Colorado have tested positive for rabies.

The most worrisome pest for people is often mosquitoes, and the amount of wet weather Boulder County has experienced creates the perfect breeding grounds. As summer progresses and the temperature rises, Culex mosquitoes (the type of mosquito that carries WNV) increase.

“If we can all take some time to tidy up around our homes, make sure our pets are up-to-date on their vaccinations, and leave wildlife alone, we can minimize the risk to our families and pets,” Carol Helwig, Boulder County Public Health Communicable Disease Control program coordinator, said in a recent press release.

“We are so fortunate to live in a place where we can enjoy the outdoors so close to wildlife,” Helwig added. “With that comes a responsibility to respect and keep away from wildlife, for ourselves and for the animals living nearby.”

Boulder County Public Health put together statistics from 2015 on how many people were infected with the various diseases. In 2015, 52 people tested positive for tularemia in Colorado; 16 of which (31 percent) were in Boulder County.

One person tested positive for the plague in Boulder County in 2015, the first person to test positive for the disease in 22 years. Three other Colorado residents tested positive for the disease, and two people died. Twenty-one people in Boulder County also had to receive post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), a medication, after being exposed to animals that possibly had rabies.

Human West Nile virus infections remained low in Boulder County in 2015, despite nine mosquito pools testing positive for the virus. Eleven people tested positive for the disease in Boulder County and 97 people contracted the disease across the state; two people died.

Residents can take some precautions to keep their families and pets free from disease this year:

Stay Away from areas where wild rodents live. If you can’t avoid going to these areas, wear insect repellent containing DEET and dress in long sleeves and pants.

Don’t Touch any wild rodents (whether dead or alive) including squirrels and rabbits; don’t feed or try to pick them up. If an animal must be moved, use a shovel with a long handle to place it in a garbage bag and place the bag in an outdoor garbage container.

Tidy Up your property and clear any areas where rodents might try to hide, and keep bird or pet food off the ground and away from these areas. If you have any standing water on your property, drain it and remove items that can collect sitting water where mosquitoes breed. Be aware when cleaning not to breathe in particles in areas where there is evidence of an active mouse infestation, such as in and around buildings or in nearby wood or junk piles.

Prevent your pets from hunting or eating wild rodents, especially rabbits. The best protection for pets, especially cats, is to keep them indoors. If outdoors with your pets, keep them out of heavily wooded areas, as that is where ticks usually live.

Vaccinate your pets for rabies and keep their shots up to date. Rabies is always fatal unless it is treated before any symptoms appear.

See a Healthcare Provider or Veterinarian if you or your pet become ill after spending time near wildlife.

For more information, comments or concerns visit BoulderCounty.org/dept/publichealth. Weekly updates of animal disease activity will be available at BoulderCountyVector.org throughout the season.

 

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