County officials remind residents of potential tick-bourne illnesses

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SAN DIEGO — County environmental health officials reminded residents Friday to protect themselves and their pets on hiking trails after trapping multiple ticks infected with tularemia, a potentially fatal bacterial disease, in Sorrento Valley.

County officials found the ticks along Lopez Canyon Trail, the sixth time this year tularemia-infected ticks have been found in the area. Vector Control officials also found multiple infected ticks in the trail area last year.

Tularemia, also called rabbit fever, can be treated with antibiotics but can also make people seriously ill. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people are most likely to be infected with tularemia by a tick bite.

The disease can also be found in wild hares, rabbits and rodents in San Diego County. According to Vector Control, the county has not confirmed a case of tularemia in a person since 2005. Ticks can also carry diseases like Lyme disease and spotted fever, but tick-borne diseases are generally rare in San Diego County.

Residents can avoid potential contact with ticks by staying on designated hiking trails and pathways and not touching grass, brush and wild rodents. The insects can also latch onto clothing and bite a host after they’ve left a trail or campground.

If bitten, the CDC recommends removing the tick with tweezers by grabbing as close to its head as possible so as not to leave any part of it within the body. If a person develops a rash within a few weeks after the bite, county officials recommend they see a doctor.

Residents can learn more about tick-borne illnesses on the county Department of Environmental Health’s dedicated tick web page. The CDC also has a section on its website focused on ticks.

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