Ticks Test Positive for Tularemia, First Detection in County This Year

Several ticks trapped in routine monitoring along Lopez Canyon Trail in Sorrento Valley have tested positive for tularemia, prompting County Vector Control officials to urge people to remember to protect themselves and their pets when hiking.

The best way to do that, County officials said, is to start by wearing insect repellent, proper clothing and by using insect control products on their pets that kill fleas and ticks.

Tularemia, also known as “rabbit fever,” is a bacterial disease. Tularemia can be successfully treated with antibiotics, but it can make people seriously ill and even kill them. It can be found in San Diego County in wild hares, rabbits and rodents, but there hasn’t been a reported case of a person infected with tularemia here since 2005.

The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the most common way for people to be exposed to tularemia is through the bite of infected ticks. The ticks feed off infected animals and pass it on to people by biting them when people and pets hike or walk through grassy backcountry areas, on trails and in the wild.

The ticks trapped along Lopez Canyon Trail are the first reported finding of tularemia in the county this year, although County Vector Control found numerous infected ticks there last year as well.

The County’s Vector Control Program monitors the population of vectors—animals like ticks, rodents and mosquitoes—that can transmit diseases to people.

Ticks are tiny, eight-legged parasites related to spiders. They crawl out on leaves and vegetation and extend their hooked front legs to latch onto passing animals and people, then bite and feed on blood. Ticks have been known to carry other diseases in addition to tularemia, including Lyme disease and spotted fever illnesses, although tick-borne diseases are rare in San Diego County.

County public health officials said anyone who is bitten by a tick should not panic, but carefully remove it. They said if a person develops a rash or fever within several weeks of being bitten they should see a doctor, tell them about the tick bite, when they were bitten and where they think it happened.

Here are seven easy tips to help you protect yourself, your family and pets from ticks:

For more information about ticks go to the County of San Diego Department of Environmental Health’s Tick Web page, and the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Tick Web page. You can also watch this County News Center TV video, “Tick Talk.”

Gig Conaughton is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact