Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve ticks test positive for ‘rabbit fever’

By City News Service

Ticks collected in the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve last week tested positive for tularemia, a potentially serious illness also known as “rabbit fever,” the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health recently reported.

The discovery came during routine monitoring for the disease in the Lopez Canyon area of the preserve.

“Tularemia is a bacterial, vector-borne disease that can be transmitted to humans through the bite of infected ticks, or through direct contact with an infected animal such as rabbits and other rodents,’’ said Jack Miller, the

DEH director. “We recommend using insect repellent to prevent ticks and other insects from biting, especially when hiking in bushy areas.’’

Flea and tick control products should also be used on pets, Miller said.

Ticks get tularemia by biting infected rabbits, rodents or other animals.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said human symptoms include lymph node swelling, headache and fever.

“Other symptoms include a skin ulcer at the site of the bite, fatigue, body aches and nausea,’’ Wooten said. “Tularemia cannot be transmitted from person-to-person, but it can be transmitted by handling infected meat, or drinking water contaminated by an infected animal.’’

She said the disease is treatable with antibiotics, but can be fatal.

The DEH recommends the following steps to avoid tick bites:

•stay on designated pathways, choose wide trails and walk in the center, and avoid grassy or brushy areas;

• do not handle wild rodents;

• wear light-colored, long-sleeved clothing; tuck shirts into pants and pants into socks;

•apply insect repellent to clothing and footwear;

•check clothing, body and companions for ticks frequently;

• leave pets at home or keep them on a leash; and

•if pets have not been already treated with a tick and flea regimen, use insecticide powders or sprays labeled for tick control.

Ticks should be removed carefully but quickly by grabbing them with tweezers as close to the insect’s head as possible and pulling out steadily and firmly.