ALL NEWS

Squirrel tests positive for bubonic plague in Colorado

Jul 14, 2020, 8:28 AM | Updated: 8:57 am
squirrel plague...
Stock Image - Pexels

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. –A squirrel in a small town west of Denver has tested positive for the bubonic plague according to public health officials.

The Jefferson County Public Health Department (JCPH) announced it confirmed the presence of plague in a squirrel in Morrison, Colorado.

Officials asked residents of Morrison to take proper precautions to avoid exposure to the disease by either humans or household animals.

“Humans may be infected with plague through bites from infected fleas, by the cough from an infected animal or by direct contact (e.g., through a bite) with blood or tissues of infected animals.”

They say that both cats and dogs can get the plague, but cats are more susceptible. 

“Cats can contract plague from flea bites, a rodent scratch/bite or ingestion of a rodent. Dogs are not as susceptible to plague; however, they may pick up and carry plague-infected rodent fleas.”

Plague rare but not unheard of in the US

(Courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

The bacterium Yersinia pestis causes bubonic plague. It arrived in the US in 1900 via rat-infested steamships, according to the CDC.

Most of the cases in the US today are found in the rural west and are centralized in northern New Mexico and Arizona, southern Colorado and in California, southern Oregon and far western Nevada. It naturally occurs when the bacteria is present among wild rodent species, such as squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, etc. Domestic pets can sometimes get the plague from these animals. 

The CDC reports that 80% of the plague in the US has been the bubonic form, which is believed to have been the same disease that caused the Black Death that killed hundreds of millions in Eurasia and North Africa in the 1300s.

Today, there are an average of seven human plague cases annually in the United States.

Symptoms of bubonic plague

“Symptoms of plague may include sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, nausea and extreme pain and swelling of lymph nodes, occurring within two to seven days after exposure. The plague can be effectively treated with antibiotics when diagnosed early. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should consult a physician,” said JCPH.

The plague can be fatal if left untreated.

“When bubonic plague is left untreated, plague bacteria can invade the bloodstream. When plague bacteria multiply in the bloodstream, they spread rapidly throughout the body and cause a severe and often fatal condition called septicemic plague. Untreated bubonic plague can also progress into an infection of the lungs, causing pneumonic plague. If plague patients are not given specific antibiotic therapy, all forms of plague can progress rapidly to death,” according to the CDC.

While there is no vaccine for the plague, doctors say it responds well to commonly available antibiotics. The CDC says the earlier symptoms are detected and treatment sought, the more likely a patient is to make a full recovery. 

Prevention

Both the CDC and the JCPH say that taking precautions while out in areas that may be affected by the plague. 

  • Eliminate all sources of food, shelter and access for wild animals around the home
  • Use insect repellent to prevent exposure to rodent fleas during activities such as camping, hiking, or working outdoors
  • Do not feed wild animals
  • Maintain a litter and trash-free yard to reduce wild animal habitats
  • Avoid pet or human contact with sick or dead wild animals and rodents 
  • Use precaution when handling sick pets; have sick pets examined by a veterinarian
  • Consult with your veterinarian about flea and tick control for your pets
  • Keep pets from roaming freely outside the home where they may prey on wild animals and bring the disease home with them

Related

The bubonic plague is back again in China’s Inner Mongolia

Every year, between 1,000 to 2,000 people STILL get the plague

Today’s Top Stories

All News

A brush fire started in Saratoga Springs last night. Photo Credit: Saratoga Springs Fire Department...
Devin Oldroyd

Fire officials say aerial firework caused brush fire in Saratoga Springs

An aerial firework caused a brush fire in Saratoga Springs Sunday night.
18 hours ago
Police in Highland Park, Illinois, respond to a shooting at a Fourth of July event....
Eric Levenson, Adrienne Broaddus, Shawn Nottingham and Brynn Gingras, CNN. Mark Jackson

Police name ‘person of interest’ as manhunt underway for gunman after mass shooting at July 4th parade in Highland Park, Illinois

(CNN) — A mass shooting at an Independence Day parade Monday in a suburb outside Chicago left at least six people dead, wounded about two dozen others and has sparked an extensive manhunt for a gunman who fired on unsuspecting attendees from a rooftop, authorities said. The shooting in Highland Park, about 25 miles north […]
18 hours ago
FILE - Fireworks explode over Baltimore's Inner Harbor during the Ports America Chesapeake 4th of J...
BOBBY CAINA CALVAN ASSOCIATED PRESS

A turbulent US this July 4, but many see cause to celebrate

July 4 has arrived as many citizens struggle to find a reason to celebrate. Yet many also see cause for celebration, including President Joe Biden.
18 hours ago
The Deuel Creek Fire began late Sunday night in Centerville. Photo credit: John Wilson....
Devin Oldroyd

Deuel Creek Fire starts in Centerville overnight, evacuation order lifted

The Deuel Creek Fire began late Sunday night in Centerville.
18 hours ago
Tooele City announced its firework restrictions Sunday evening. Photo Credit: Tooele City's Faceboo...
Devin Oldroyd

Tooele City releases fireworks restrictions map

Tooele City announced its firework restrictions Sunday evening.
2 days ago
A Navy soldier stands guard as authorities wait for the arrival of people who were evacuated from t...
Associated Press

Tropical Storm Colin brings rain to Carolinas, weakens

Tropical Storm Colin formed along the coast on Saturday. Conditions are expected to improve by Monday's Fourth of July celebrations.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Squirrel tests positive for bubonic plague in Colorado