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Tularemia Confirmed in Larimer County (June 17, 2016)

The Larimer County Department of Health and Environment has confirmed the first human case of tularemia in the county in 2016. This patient developed a lung infection, and may have been exposed while mowing the yard or gardening at home in Fort Collins. Soil can be contaminated by tularemia-causing bacteria from the droppings or urine of sick animals, most often rabbits. When a person mows, blows leaves or turns up the soil, these bacteria can aerosolize and be inhaled, causing pneumonic tularemia.

All warm-blooded animals are susceptible to tularemia, including livestock and pets such as dogs, cats and birds; however, the bacteria normally occur in nature in rabbits and hares, as well as in small rodents, voles, muskrats and beavers. A recent die-off of rabbits or rodents in a neighborhood could suggest a possible tularemia outbreak among the animals in that area. The bacteria these animals shed can persist in the soil or water for weeks, and it takes very few bacteria to cause an infection.

Tularemia can be transmitted to people who have handled infected animals. Infection can also occur from the bite of infected insects (most commonly ticks and deer flies); by exposure to contaminated food, water or soil; by eating, drinking, or touching eyes, nose, or mouth before washing after outdoor activities; by direct contact with breaks in the skin; or by inhaling particles carrying the bacteria (through mowing or blowing vegetation and excavating soil). In recent years, most human tularemia cases along the Front Range have been attributed to activities involving soil and vegetation.

Typical signs of infection in humans may include fever, chills, headache, swollen and painful lymph glands, and fatigue. If tularemia is caused by the bite of an infected insect or from bacteria entering a cut or scratch, it usually causes a skin ulcer or pustule and swollen glands. Eating or drinking food or water containing the bacteria may produce a throat infection, mouth ulcers, stomach pain, diarrhea and vomiting. Inhaling the bacteria may cause an infection of the lungs with chest pain and coughing. Symptoms typically appear between 3 to 5 days of exposure, but can range from 2 to 13 days.

Tularemia can be effectively treated with antibiotics. If you have any of the early signs, seek medical attention as soon as possible. Untreated tularemia can lead to hospitalization and may be fatal if not diagnosed and treated appropriately.

Gardeners, landscapers, mowers, outdoor workers, and others participating in activities outside are advised to:
  • Wear gloves when gardening or planting trees, and always wash hands before eating or putting hands to mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Wear a dust mask when mowing or blowing vegetation, or excavating or tilling soil.
  • Wear an insect repellent effective against ticks, biting flies and mosquitoes (DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 are good choices).
  • Wear shoes, rather than going barefoot, on grassy lawns, especially if dead rabbits or rodents have been seen in the neighborhood
  • Never touch dead animals with bare hands.

  • For more information about tularemia and how to protect people and pets, visit http://bit.ly/1ejjGud.
     
    Summer Ozone Season Along the Front Range (June 2016)

    June 1 marked the beginning of the summer ozone season along Colorado's Front Range. Ozone Action Alerts are issued on days when meteorologists from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment expect weather conditions to lead to increased ground-level ozone concentrations in Denver and along the Front Range. The cities of Loveland, Fort Collins and Greeley are included in the alert area.

    Ground-level ozone is an important air pollutant. Elevated levels can cause symptoms that include stinging eyes and throat, chest pains, coughing and respiratory distress. Those at highest risk of symptoms due to elevated ozone levels include the elderly; young, active children; and anyone with a pre-existing respiratory condition such as emphysema or asthma. Even healthy adults who spend a lot of time working or exercising outdoors may be affected by elevated ozone levels. During ozone alert days, people can lower their risk of developing symptoms by limiting prolonged outdoor activities.

    Ozone is different from most other air pollution in that it is not emitted directly into the atmosphere. Instead, ozone forms in the lower atmosphere when other primary emissions react in the presence of heat and sunlight. Those emissions are volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. The sources of these ozone-forming emissions include cars and trucks, industrial operations, oil and gas wells, residential activities such as mowing lawns and using paints and stains, as well as from naturally occurring sources such as volatile organics from evergreen trees.

    Ozone alerts serve two important purposes: They provide specific health advice for people who may be affected by elevated ozone levels, and they inform the community about steps that can be taken to help reduce ozone during those times. Because ozone formation occurs when air emissions bake in the hot summer sun, people can help by taking voluntary steps to reduce these pollutants. Some suggestions for individual action include:
  • Keep your car tuned and tires well-inflated to increase mileage and reduce fuel use
  • Avoid unnecessary idling at drive-thru windows and other places
  • Stop at the click when refueling your car or truck to limit vapors at the gas pump
  • Refuel after dusk in the summer to avoid the period of intense sunlight
  • Combine trips, take the bus, or postpone a trip during an alert if possible
  • If you use a gas-powered lawnmower, delay mowing until evening to avoid the period of intense ozone formation

    Ozone also occurs in the upper atmosphere at an altitude of 10 to 30 miles above the Earth's surface. This upper-level ozone is not a form of air pollution, and in fact, it blocks ultraviolet rays thereby helping to protect us from skin cancer and cataracts.

    More information about ozone in our area is available at www.ozoneaware.org. In Colorado, the Regional Air Quality Council is leading the planning efforts to reduce ozone levels and attain compliance with the ozone air quality standard. Technical information about this planning process is available at www.raqc.org.
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    Bike Month in June (2016)

    Every June, Colorado celebrates Bike Month, and here in Fort Collins we love anything that highlights and promotes people who ride bicycles.

    Each year on the fourth Wednesday of June, FC Bikes hosts its signature Bike Month event: Bike to Work Day (BTWD). Fort Collins' Bike to Work Day is an event to encourage people to bicycle for transportation; experience the benefits of riding a bike; highlight Fort Collins' extensive bike routes; and demonstrate that bicycling is an easy, fun and healthy means of traveling around the city.

    Breakfast stations will be set up across the city from 6:30am to 9:30am, and cyclists are encouraged to stop by on the way to work for coffee, orange juice, bagels, breakfast burritos and a variety of other breakfast options, depending on which station(s) you visit.

    For more info about Bike Month and for a list of breakfast station locations so that you can plan your route, go to the FC Bikes' webpage.
     
    Naqvi, Sullivan Elected to Health District Board of Directors (May 2016)

    Faraz Naqvi and Deirdre Sullivan have been elected to the board of directors for the Health District of Northern Larimer County. Three candidates ran for two open seats on the Health District board. A total of 1,102 people voted in the special district election.

    Naqvi, 55, is a physician focused on elderly care, skilled and assisted living care and management of health professionals. Sullivan, 41, is a program supervisor for CanDo and Vida Sana at UCHealth Community Health Improvement and a facilitator with the Family Leadership Training Institute at Colorado State University Extension. Both are residents of Fort Collins.

    The Health District is governed by a five-member board of directors. Members serve staggered, four-year terms and are elected at-large from the community. Elections are held every two years in even-numbered years.

    The Health District provides residents of northern Larimer County with dental, mental health and preventive health services, in addition to connecting people to more affordable prescription and health insurance options.
     
    Election for Health District Board of Directors on May 3 (2016)

    Three people are running for the board of directors of the Health District of Northern Larimer County. They will compete in a May 3 election for two open seats on the board.

    Candidates are Robert Calhoun, 66, a licensed psychologist; Faraz Naqvi, 55, a physician focused on elderly care, skilled and assisted living care and management of health professionals; and Deirdre Sullivan, 41, a program supervisor for CanDo and Vida Sana at UCHealth Community Health Improvement and a facilitator with the Family Leadership Training Institute of CSU Extension. All three candidates are residents of Fort Collins.

    The Health District is governed by a five-person board of directors whose members are elected to alternating four-year terms. Board members are elected at large by eligible voters in the district, which encompasses the northern two-thirds of Larimer County and includes the cities of Fort Collins, Timnath, Laporte, Livermore and Wellington. Elections are held every two years.

    To be eligible to vote in the election, a person must be a U.S. citizen aged 18 years or older who is registered to vote in Colorado and is also a resident of the Health District. Non-district residents may vote if they or their spouse own property within the district.

    Voting on May 3 will take place at two polling locations in Fort Collins: the Health District main office at 120 Bristlecone Drive, and Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church at 4501 S. Lemay Ave. (corner of Lemay and Harmony).

    People also may vote by mail, and all completed ballots must be received at the Health District by 7 p.m. on May 3 in order to be counted. To vote by mail, request an absentee ballot by completing and submitting an Application for Absentee Ballot, which is available on the Health District website. Ballots will be sent automatically to people who have voted in previous Health District board elections and who requested to be on the permanent absentee ballot list.

    More election information, including details on obtaining an absentee ballot, as well as personal profiles provided by the candidates, is available at healthdistrict.org/2016-election.

    The Health District is a public agency that provides residents of northern Larimer County with dental, mental health, and preventive health services, in addition to connecting people to more affordable prescription and health insurance options.
     

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