Animal to Human Diseases
What is Avian Flu?
Avian flu refers to disease in birds caused by infection with avian influenza Type A viruses. These viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird species. Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) viruses can spread very quickly and can cause severe disease and death in infected birds.
Current Avian Flu Outbreaks
In Mar. 2022, a new strain of HPAI was identified in wild Colorado birds. This particular strain is causing widespread mortality in some species of wild birds, particularly in Snow and Canadian geese, raptors, and vultures. Broomfield has seen an increase in wild bird deaths, likely due to avian flu.
Domestic birds (poultry) across Colorado continue to be impacted by avian flu, which can be deadly. If you own a domestic flock, continue to keep your birds away from wild birds. Learn more about how to protect your domestic flock below.
Although no mammals have been affected in Broomfield, a number of mammalian wildlife species have been infected with the current strain of avian flu in the U.S. including skunks, foxes, black bears, bobcats, and mountain lions among several others. These mammals likely become infected by feeding on infected birds and consuming a large amount of avian flu virus. However, not every mammal that consumes a sick bird will develop HPAI. Despite the variety of mammalian species susceptible to avian flu, the numbers of mammal cases are low. The majority of cases confirmed during this avian fluo utbreak are in wild and domestic birds.
What are the Risks to Humans?
Although avian flu mainly affects wild birds and poultry, there have been rare cases in humans. Human infections are most likely to happen in people directly exposed to infected birds or contaminated environments. People should never touch wild birds and observe them only from a distance; do not touch wild and domestic birds that appear ill or have died; and avoid contact with droppings from wild or domestic birds.
Avian flu virus infection in people cannot be diagnosed by clinical signs and symptoms alone; laboratory testing is needed. Individuals are advised to monitor themselves for any signs of flu-like symptoms within a week of handling birds. Anyone who feels ill should visit their health care provider. Learn more about avian flu in humans on the Center for Disease Control web page.
What Actions Should I Take?
- If a bird is sick or injured, please call police non-emergency dispatch at 303-438-6400 so that an animal services officer can be dispatched out to assist.
- Do not touch dead or diseased wild birds.
- If a dead bird is on your property and removal is necessary, wear a mask, eye protection (goggles), and gloves to pick up the bird, immediately double bag it, and place the bags in municipal trash. Discard the gloves and mask, and wash your hands immediately afterward with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Waterfowl hunters should take steps to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recommendations for hunters to protect themselves from avian flu.
People with domestic flocks, including backyard poultry, should take precautions during this time:
- Increase Biosecurity: Learn more about how to secure your flock at USDA’s Defend the Flock web page.
- Monitor Flocks: Monitor for feed and water consumption, signs of HPAI, or other changes in bird behavior.
- Report Disease: Report suspicious disease events in your commercial or backyard flocks to the State Veterinarian's office at 303-869-9130.
Although the risk is lower than it is to birds and cases are rare, your cats or dogs could become infected with avian flu if they go outside and eat or are exposed to sick or dead birds infected with avian flu viruses, or an environment contaminated with feces of infected birds. People should avoid contact between their pets and wild birds or areas contaminated with avian flu virus. If you think your pet has been exposed to avian flu and is showing symptoms of illness, contact your veterinarian and monitor yourself for symptoms. For more guidance, refer to additional CDC resources.
Mental Health and HPAI
Bird owners struggling with stress or anxiety around HPAI can contact Colorado Crisis Services by calling 1-844-494-TALK (8255) or texting TALK to 38255. Farmers and ranchers can receive a voucher for six free sessions with an ag-competent provider through the Colorado Agricultural Addiction and Mental Health Program at campforhealth.com.
Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) is a rare but serious disease that occurs throughout the U.S. and is caused by a virus that individuals get through contact with an infected rodent urine, droppings, or saliva.
In the U.S., deer mice are the reservoir of the HPS. The virus is mainly transmitted to people when they breathe in air contaminated with the virus. Rodent infestation in and around the home remains the primary risk for hantavirus exposure.
Early symptoms: include fatigue, fever and muscle aches. There may also be headache, dizziness, chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. About half of all HPS patients experience these symptoms.
Late symptoms: Four to 10 days after the initial phase of illness, the late symptoms of HPS appear. These include coughing and shortness of breath, with the sensation of, as one survivor put it, a "tight band around my chest and a pillow over my face" as the lungs fill with fluid.
SEAL UP - TRAP UP - CLEAN UP!
- Rodent-proof buildings by plugging holes or other mouse entryways.
- Clean up rodent food source and nesting sites.
- Keep indoor areas clean, especially kitchens. Dispose of garbage in sealed containers.
- Store food in rodent-proof containers, including food for pets, livestock and birds.
- Remove rodent hiding places near your home, such as wood, junk and brush piles. Store firewood at least 100 feet from your house. Keep vegetation around the house well-trimmed.
- Cleaning rodent-infested areas:
- If you need to clean up any rodent infested areas, take precautions first - it is very important you do not stir up dust! Hantavirus can be spread by sweeping up rodent droppings, urine, or nesting materials.
- Step-by-step instructions for cleaning up after rodents safely.
- Conduct year-round rodent control, or hire a professional exterminator.
Plague is caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, and occurs naturally in Colorado. When humans get plague, it is usually by getting bitten by an infected rodent flea or by handling an infected animal. People and animals that visit places where rodents have recently died from plague risk getting the disease from flea bites. Dogs and cats are also susceptible to plague and may bring plague-infected fleas into the home. The use of a veterinary-approved flea product is strongly advised.
If detected early, plague is treatable in both people and pets. Modern antibiotics are very effective at treating plague.
Plague is frequently detected in rock squirrels, woodrats, and other species of ground squirrels and chipmunks. Prairie dogs are very susceptible to plague. Since they are active above ground, if they suddenly disappear/die-off, they serve as a visible alert that plague may be present. If you notice decreased rodent activity in an area where you normally see active rodents, contact Broomfield Public Health.
Plague should be suspected when a person develops a swollen gland or node, sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, and extreme exhaustion, and has a history of possible exposure to infected rodents, prairie dogs, rabbits, or fleas.
- AVOID FLEAS by protecting pets with a flea treatment, and keeping pets on a leash and out of areas inhabited by rodents, such as prairie dogs and squirrels.
- STAY OUT of areas where rodents live, including prairie dog colonies. If you enter rodent prone areas, wear insect repellent and tuck pants cuffs into socks to prevent flea bites.
- AVOID ALL CONTACT with wild rodents, including prairie dogs and squirrels; do not feed or handle them.
- DO NOT TOUCH sick or dead animals.
- PREVENT RODENT INFESTATIONS around your house: clear plants and materials away from outside walls, reduce access to food items, and set traps.
- TREAT RODENT SITES around your home in consultation with a professional pest control company
- SEE A PHYSICIAN if you become ill with a high fever and/or a swollen lymph node. Plague is a treatable illness.
- SEE A VETERINARIAN if your pet becomes ill with a high fever and/or an abscess (e.g. open sore.) Pets with plague can transmit the illness to humans.
Rabies is a preventable viral disease of mammals most often spread through infected saliva from wild animals by a bite or scratch. The most common carriers of rabies are skunks, bats, raccoons, coyotes, but all mammals are susceptible to infections, including both you and your pets.
Rabies is caused by a virus that affects the nervous system of humans and other mammals, and is almost always fatal without treatment. Animals with rabies may appear disoriented, stagger, drool excessively, be aggressive, appear tamer than usual, or lose their fear of humans. The classic sign of rabies is unusual behavior; for example, skunks that are usually only seen at night may be seen in the daytime. Humans, pets, horses, livestock, and many wild animals are susceptible to rabies from a bite, scratch, or contact with the saliva of an infected animal. If you believe that you, your pet, or your livestock has had contact with a rabid animal, contact your doctor or veterinarian for prompt medical treatment.
Protect Yourself, Your Pet, and Your Community
- Visit your veterinarian with your pet on a regular basis and keep rabies vaccinations up-to-date for all cats, ferrets, dogs, horses, and livestock.
- Report stray or ill animals to Broomfield Animal Services by calling 303.438.6400.
- Do not touch wild animals, whether alive or dead. Rabid animals do not always appear vicious.
- Do not pick up, relocate, or attempt to feed or handle any unfamiliar or wild animals (including baby animals), even if they appear friendly.
- Never touch a bat. If you have contact with a bat, find a bat in a room, or wake up to a bat in your bedroom, report it to Broomfield Animal Services. Please do not let the bat go - Public Health may need to test it for rabies.
- Maintain control of your pets by keeping cats and ferrets indoors and keeping dogs under direct supervision and on a leash.
- Avoid leaving food or garbage outside as it often attracts stray dogs, cats, and wildlife to your yard.
- Report any wild animal acting strangely to Broomfield Animal Services at 303.438.6400.
- Contact your veterinarian if your dog, cat, ferret, horse, or livestock is bitten or scratched by a wild animal.
- Seek immediate medical attention if you are bitten or scratched, or have any contact with a bat or other wild animal. Then contact Broomfield Public Health at 720.887.2220 as rabies post-exposure vaccinations may be needed immediately to prevent the development of rabies.
|Public Health and Environment|
Health Protection: 720.887.2220
Wildlife Masters Volunteer Program: 303.464.5554
|ID and License|
FREE Broomfield Rabies tag: 303.469.3301
|General Information, COHELP|
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment: 877.462.2911
|Contact your local veterinarian for wellness care and rabies vaccination.|
Tularemia is a disease that can infect animals and people. Tularemia is caused by the bacteria Francisella tularensis, a bacteria which occurs naturally in Colorado. Rabbits and rodents are especially susceptible and can die in large numbers during outbreaks. Tularemia is usually a disease that occurs in wildlife such as rabbits and rodents, and it can be present in the environment in soil and water.
People can get tularemia many different ways, including during gardening and landscaping, contact with an infected animal or through a bite from an infected insect, consuming contaminated food or water, or breathing in the bacteria. The bacteria may cause pneumonia when it is inhaled, for example from mowing over an infected rabbit or rodent carcass. Ticks, biting flies, and mosquitoes have been shown to transmit tularemia between animals and humans. Tularemia is not known to be spread from person to person.
- Symptoms of tularemia usually appear 3 to 5 days after exposure to the bacteria, but can take as long as 14 days.
- Symptoms may include sudden fever, chills, headaches, diarrhea, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough, and progressive weakness. People can also develop pneumonia with chest pain, cough, and difficulty breathing. Additional symptoms can develop based on how a person was infected, including skin or mouth ulcers, swollen painful lymph glands, swollen painful eyes, or a sore throat.
- Tularemia infection can be severe, but is treatable with common antibiotics, especially if caught early.
- See your health care provider if you are ill with these symptoms.
- AVOID ALL CONTACT with wild rodents, including rabbits and squirrels; do not feed or handle them. Prevent pets from eating wildlife.
- DO NOT TOUCH sick or dead animals.
- WEAR SHOES & GLOVES when gardening or working outside. Always wash hands after outdoor activities.
- AVOID MOWING OVER animal carcasses, and consider using a dust mask when mowing or doing landscape work if you have seen rabbits or rodents in your yard.
- AVOID TICKS & FLEAS by protecting pets with a flea & tick treatment.
- WEAR AN INSECT REPELLENT effective against ticks, biting flies and mosquitoes. Please visit EPA's web page for more information.
- SEE A PHYSICIAN if you become ill with a high fever, swollen lymph nodes, chest pain & difficulty breathing, or other symptoms of tularemia.
- SEE A VETERINARIAN if your pet becomes ill.
West Nile virus (WNV) is primarily a disease of birds, spread by infected mosquitoes to people; it is not transferred from person to person. The female Culex tarsalis mosquito, the species that transmits the virus, usually starts emerging in late April or early May and continues transmitting the virus until the first hard frost, which usually is in September along the Front Range.
Protect yourself and your family from mosquito bites, especially from dusk (evening) to dawn (morning) when the mosquitoes that spread WNV are more active.
- Most people (70-80%) who become infected with WNV do not develop any symptoms.
- About 1 in 5 people who are infected will develop a fever with other symptoms such as headache, fatigue, body aches, joint pains, vomiting, diarrhea, or rash. Symptoms begin between 2 to 14 days after being bitten. People with milder symptoms typically recover on their own, although some symptoms may last for several weeks.
- A small percentage of people (less than 1%) will develop serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis (inflammation of the brain or surrounding tissues).
- The symptoms of neurologic illness can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, coma, tremors, seizures, or paralysis.
- Serious illness can occur in people of any age. However, people over 60 years of age and/or people with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and people who have received organ transplants, are at greater risk for serious illness.
- Recovery from severe disease may take several weeks or months. Some of the neurologic effects can be permanent.
- About 10% of people who develop neurologic infection due to WNV will die.
See your healthcare provider if you think you have symptoms of WNV. There is no treatment, cure, or human vaccination for WNV, but health care providers can treat symptoms to help patients feel better and possibly recover more quickly.
- DRAIN standing water around the house since that's where mosquitoes breed. Be sure to empty old tires, cans, flowerpots, clogged rain gutters, rain barrels, and toys where puddles can occur.
- DUSK & DAWN are when mosquitoes that carry the virus are most active, so limit outdoor activities or take precautions to prevent mosquito bites.
- DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide the best protection. Follow label instructions.
- DRESS in long sleeves and pants to keep mosquitoes from biting.
Additional Information on Mosquito Control
- Environmental Services contracts with Vector Disease Control who provides surveillance, monitoring, and control of mosquitoes.
- Call the Vector Disease Control Mosquito at Hotline 303.428.5908 for any mosquito complaints or concerns.
- Watch the mosquito control video to learn more about how mosquito control activities are handled and how to protect you and your family from West Nile virus.