Larimer County health officials are warning residents to take precautions after the county's first case of tularemia has been confirmed this year. A rabbit tested positive for the disease, also know as rabbit fever, last week near Laporte. Larimer County Department of Health and Environment officials said it is likely that many more animals, especially rabbits, have the disease. The disease is found widespread around the county each year so much that health officials no longer have a surveillance program for regular testing. The disease is also found throughout much of the state. Last year, one human contracted the disease in Larimer County. There have been 18 human cases in the county since 2009. Tularemia can affect all warm-blooded animals but is mostly found in rabbits. A recent die-off of rabbits in a neighborhood suggests a possible tularemia outbreak, according to the Larimer County Health Department. "Because tularemia is naturally occurring in Larimer County, precautions should always be taken to prevent infection, Tom Gonzales, public health director, stated in a release. "It is important to keep children and pets away from wild animals." Last week, the Larimer County health department reported a cat had tested positive for rabies in Fort Collins. Soil can be contaminated by tularemia-causing bacteria from the droppings or urine of sick animals. The bacteria these animals shed can persist in the soil or water for weeks, and it takes few bacteria to cause an infection. Most human cases are tied to soil transmission, so residents are urged to wear footwear and gloves when outside. Other transmission to humans can come from handling infected animals; the bite of infected insects (mostly ticks and deer flies); exposure to contaminated food and water; eating, drinking, putting hands to eyes, nose or mouth before washing after outdoor activities; direct contact with breaks in the skin; or inhaling particles carrying the bacteria while mowing, blowing vegetation and excavating soil. Tularemia is not known to be spread from person to person.