Following are a few diseases that might be transmitted to humans from animals that are present in Rocky Mountain National Park. Although not all the diseases that people can contract from animals are listed, the ones listed below are the more important ones.
Colorado Tick Fever (CTF)
The symptoms of Colorado Tick fever are the same as t hose of the flu: chills, fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and perhaps some disorientation. The disease commonly occurs about four to five days after a tick bite. Respiratory signs are usually not present. The disease is fairly mild in humans.
There is no treatment other than bed rest, drink plenty of fluids, and take medications for the relief of headache pain. A person will usually be back to normal in about one week with or without medication.
Prevention: Avoid tick bites by wearing light-colored clothing and long-sleeved shirts, tuck pants into boots, avoid tick habitat, use insect repellents containing DEEET on your skin and clothing, and examine yourself for ticks every few hours and remove them immediately.
There are many signs and symptoms associated with this disease, but the more common signs are abdominal pain, cramps, diarrhea with a lot of flatus (gas), and weight loss.
There are medications to treat this disease but they must be prescribed by a physician after appropriate diagnosis of the condition.
Prevention: Do not drink water from untreated sources. Although mountain stream water looks very pure, it can contain giardia organisms as well as many other pathogenic disease-causing microorganisms. Drink only water that is known to be safe for drinking.
The signs and symptoms of plague are many and varied. There are several forms of the disease. The signs usually appear about two to six days after the bite of an infected flea. The mild form occurs in swollen lymph nodes in the armpit or groin along with flu-like symptoms. In the severe form, pneumonia develops, and there may or may not be swelling of the lymph nodes.
Treatment for plague is carried out under the supervision of a physician.
Prevention: Avoid the habitat of ground squirrels, prairie dogs, and other mammals; maintain good sanitation around your campsite or cabin so rats and other small mammals are not attracted to your area; do not attempt to handle any injured animal. Do not attempt to rid area of ground squirrels, prairie dogs, or rodents without also simultaneously initiating flea control.
Prevention: Avoid approaching wildlife, do not attempt to pet or handle wildlife, and take preventive action so that you will not be bitten. If you are bitten by any animal, report it immediately to the nearest medical facility.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSP)
Despite the name of the disease, it is very uncommon in the Rocky Mountains and occurs primarily in the southwestern United States. The disease was given its name because the first few discover cases occurred in the Rocky Mountains. The name of the disease is a misnomer and only about three cases of RMSP occur each year in Colorado. The disease is easily treated with antibiotics.
Prevention: same as for Colorado Tick Fever.
Tularemia (Rabbit Fever)
In humans, tularemia can cause a wide range of symptoms, including fever and chills, joint pain, muscle aches and headaches, dry cough and chest pain and an open sore and swelling at the site of a tick bite or swollen lymph nodes. If someone becomes ill with any of these symptoms within two weeks of being in an affected area, they should seek medical attention and tell their doctor about possible exposure to tularemia. Tularemia can be treated successfully with antibiotics.About seven days after coming in contact with an infected animal (often a rabbit) or after being bitten by a tick, or drinking contaminated water, flu-like symptoms occur along with a small ulcer at the site of the tick bite.
Tularemia is present in Rocky Mountain National Park and was confirmed at Lily Lake in summer of 2015.
Prevention: People can help prevent infection by using insect repellent, washing hands, and giving wildlife their space. Never consume water that has not been treated or boiled.
Last updated: September 19, 2015