Plague discovered in 6 Colorado counties after 10-year-old dies

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LA PLATA COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment says there have been laboratory confirmed reports of plague in animals and fleas from six counties.

One of the six counties with confirmed plague is LaPlata County, where a 10-year-old resident died from causes associated with plague. Laboratory testing has since confirmed the presence of plague in a sample of fleas collected in the county, according to CDPHE.

A spokesperson for CDPHE said the other five counties where plague was detected are: San Miguel, El Paso, Boulder, Huerfano and Adams.

CDPHE said that plague is caused by bacteria that can be transmitted to humans by the bites of infected fleas or by direct contact with infected animals.

If detected early in infection, plague is treatable in both people and pets. Symptoms include the sudden onset of high fever and/or swollen lymph nodes, according to CDPHE.

“In Colorado, we expect to have fleas  test positive for plague during the summer months.  Awareness and precautions can help prevent the disease in people. While it’s rare for people to contract plague, we want to make sure everyone knows the symptoms. The disease is treatable if caught early.  Let a medical provider know if you think you have symptoms of plague or if you think you’ve been exposed,” said Jennifer House, Deputy State Epidemiologist and Public Health Veterinarian for CDPHE.

Here are some helpful tips from CDPHE:

  • Avoid fleas. Protect pets with a veterinary approved flea treatment and keep them on a leash and out of wild rodent habitats.
  • Stay out of areas where wild rodents live. If you enter areas inhabited by wild rodents, wear insect repellent and tuck your pant cuffs into your socks to prevent flea bites.
  • Avoid all contact with wild rodents, including squirrels. Do not feed or handle them.
  • Do not touch sick or dead animals.
  • Prevent rodent infestations around your house by clearing plants and materials away from outside walls, reducing access to food items, and setting traps.
  • Consult with a professional pest control company to treat the area around your home for fleas.
  • Contact a veterinarian if your pet becomes ill with a high fever and/or an abscess (i.e. open sore) or swollen lymph nodes. Pets with plague can transmit the illness to humans.
  • Children should be aware of these precautions and know to tell an adult if they have had contact with a wild animal or were bitten by fleas.

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