Disease Prevention is the work that Pitkin County Public Health performs in order to identify and respond to disease outbreaks, provide guidance to community partners about infection prevention, work with individuals to identify sources of certain illnesses, and reduce the amount of disease present within the community overall. This work is done by the county epidemiologist in partnership with the City of Aspen, Town of Snowmass Village, local healthcare providers, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Particular attention is paid to diseases that can be easily spread through the community, either by exposure to a common source or from person to person. These diseases are known as communicable diseases. Illnesses from such diseases can often be prevented through community education and communication. Pitkin County is uniquely vulnerable to certain types of communicable diseases due to the proximity to wilderness areas, as well as, due to the high volume of travelers visiting the county.
The majority of communicable diseases that individuals in Pitkin County come into contact with can be put in to the following categories:
Vaccine Preventable Diseases
Food and Water Borne Illnesses
Animal Bites or Exposures (Rabies)
If you have any questions, please email our Disease Prevention team at DiseasePrevention@pitkincounty.com
Vaccine Preventable Diseases (VPD’s)
VPD’s include many highly contagious and deadly pathogens that are easily preventable by staying up to date on routine vaccinations. These pathogens include:
Varicella (Chicken Pox)
Hepatitis A and B
Many of these diseases are not only dangerous for the individual, but are of grave public health concern. Maintaining high rates of vaccination in the community is essential to protecting individuals from suffering potentially severe negative medical outcomes, including death, due to VPD’s.
On-time vaccination throughout childhood is essential because it helps provide immunity before children are exposed to potentially life-threatening diseases. Vaccines are tested to ensure that they are safe and effective for children to receive at the recommended ages. Please see the recommended Immunization Schedule from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) using the button below.
To schedule a vaccination appointment you can contact your pediatrician or primary care physician or you can contact Community Health Services.
Respiratory illnesses can be caused by many different types of pathogens so while severity and treatment of these illnesses will vary, proactive protection is the best way to prevent potential negative health outcomes due to respiratory illnesses. While respiratory illnesses are present throughout the year, they typically occur at high rates during the winter season (October through April) each year.
Respiratory illnesses are easily spread through sharing closed spaces, such as a home or indoor work place, and while they may only be a mild inconvenience they can also lead to hospitalization and even death for certain individuals or certain illnesses.
The most common respiratory illnesses reported in Pitkin County are:
Covid-19, Influenza and RSV
Seasonal vaccinations for Influenza and Covid-19 are the best way to prevent severe negative health outcomes for both of these illnesses. While these vaccines are recommended for the majority of the population, they are particularly effective for higher risk individuals. RSV often causes mild illness in the general population but can cause severe illness in young children (under a year in age). You can read more about the availability of vaccines by clicking here.
Regardless of which pathogen is causing respiratory illness, individuals are encouraged to prevent community spread by following the Healthy Best Practices [LINK to PDF]. Scheduling your seasonal vaccinations for Flu and Covid-19 as well as staying home and wearing masks in public can dramatically reduce the risk of community spread of respiratory illnesses and help protect high risk individuals.
You can explore respiratory illness data using the links below:
Food and Water Borne Illnesses
These types of illnesses typically result in stomach bugs and are often caught from environmental sources such as unsterilized water or improper food handling. That being said they can also be shared between individuals in households, workplaces or school/childcare.
**If you would like to make a complaint regarding possible foodborne illness exposure from a restaurant within Pitkin County, please fill out the Foodborne Illness Complaint form.**
Examples of the most common food and water borne illnesses experienced by Pitkin County residents include, but are not limited to:
STEC (Shiga Toxin producing E.Coli)
A physician will be able to diagnose and prescribe treatment as needed if symptoms arise. That being said, preventing food and water borne illnesses is easy done by following the below steps and is recommended while traveling and while in Pitkin county.
Never drink unsterilized water. This includes water from streams, rivers, springs or lakes, regardless of how clean they appear. City water within Pitkin County is safe but private well water should be tested periodically. To read more about proper water sterilization practices while either camping or traveling, read more from the CDC here.
Consume properly washed fruits and vegetables and avoid undercooked meat products.
Always wash your hands thoroughly before eating and drinking; avoid touching your face or mouth area with unwashed hands.
If stomach bugs are present in the house or school setting, increased sterilization of common touch surfaces and eliminating sharing of eating utensils, cups and plates can reduce the risk of illness spreading.
Food and water borne illnesses are also common internationally and can easily be caught when traveling, and are so referred to as “traveler’s diarrhea”.
You can read more about protecting yourself against common food and water borne illnesses while traveling by reading more from the CDC below:
Animal Bites and Exposures (Rabies)
While rabies is rare in Pitkin County, if an individual is infected with rabies it is 100% fatal unless treated immediately. Rabies is transmitted by predatory animals such as foxes, coyotes, racoons, weasels (ermine, pine marten, skunks etc.) and bats. Rabies can also infect and be transmitted by domestic animals like cats, dogs and ferrets.
Wild Animal Exposure
All animal bites or exposures to potential rabies transmitting wild animals is considered a high risk exposure. If you think you have been exposed to or bitten by a wild animal, contact animal control. When possible, the animal should be caught and submitted for testing. Bats who are found alive and in a living area of the home should always be caught by a professional for testing. Determining if post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) vaccination is needed is done via consultation with Pitkin County Public Health.
Domestic Animal Exposure
Vaccinating domestic animals is the best way to protect them from possibly contracting rabies. These vaccinations are available through your veterinarian and are recommended for any susceptible animal (dogs, cats, and ferrets). If your animal is bitten by a wild animal, isolation and monitoring for disease symptoms will be recommended.
Dog bites, even minor ones, should always be reported. The dog WILL NOT be put down, but vaccination status of the dog should be determined in order to assess the possible need for prophylaxis vaccination for the bite victim.
Rabies is a serious illness that leads to death without treatment. PEP vaccination should be administered within 10 days of exposure. If you have any questions regarding exposure types and risk levels you can read more regarding rabies in the state of C0lorado from CDPHE and from the CDC using the buttons below. here
If exposure has occurred please contact your primary care provider and animal control immediately.
Servicing Snowmass Village
Servicing Aspen and Unincorporated Pitkin County