PRO/AH/EDR> Plague – USA (01): (CO)


A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases

Date: Mon 26 Jun 2023
Source: The Journal [edited]

Montezuma County Public Health has identified a human case of plague
in a resident, according to a news release [Mon 26 Jun 2023] from the

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and Montezuma
County Public Health Department continue to investigate the case and
“will provide additional information as it becomes available,” the
news release said. The unsigned news release was emailed to The
Journal by Vicki Schaffer, public information officer for Montezuma

The news release did not provide details about when, how or where the
infected resident might have contracted the plague or whether the
infected resident was involved with other groups of people in
activities where the potentially fatal disease could be spread.

In 2021, a 10-year-old girl in La Plata County died from causes
associated with plague. Although the girl was identified as a member
of the 4-H Club, no other people or domesticated animals were known to
have been infected. Lab tests confirmed that the girl died [5 Jul
2021], after being treated at Mercy Regional Medical Center. It was
the first plague death in Colorado since 2015.

Within 2 weeks, officials with San Juan Basin Public Health announced
that laboratory testing confirmed the presence of plague in a sample
of fleas collected in south central La Plata County. San Juan Public
Health and CDPHE contacted residents near where the plague-positive
fleas were collected and encouraged residents to take precautions.

The disease is caused by Yersinia pestis, a bacterium that can be
transmitted to humans by the bites of infected fleas or by direct
contact with infected animals such as squirrels, prairie dogs and wood

It can also be transmitted when a person has plague pneumonia, they
may cough droplets containing the plague bacteria into air.

San Juan Basin Public Health said that investigates prairie dog
population die-offs for the presence of plague. Residents should
notify local health officials if an active colony of prairie dogs or
population of other small mammals suddenly disappears.

Plague is treatable. Symptoms include the sudden onset of high fever
and swollen lymph nodes.

According to San Juan Basin Public Health, people can take precautions
against the plague by:

  • Avoiding fleas and protecting pets with a flea treatment and keep
    them on a leash and out of wild rodent habitats.
  • Avoiding sleeping alongside pets.
  • Keeping pets up to date on vaccinations, away from wildlife and
    protected from fleas with veterinary approved topical medications,
    flea collars or other methods of prevention.
  • Staying 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.
  • Avoiding all contact with wild rodents, including squirrels. Do not
    feed or handle them.
  • Not touching sick or dead animals.
  • Clearing plants and materials away from outside walls, reducing
    access to food items and setting traps to prevent rodent infestations
    around your house.
  • Treating known rodent sites around your home with flea powder or a
    suitable insecticide.
  • Seeing a physician if you become ill with a high fever or swollen
    lymph nodes.
  • Contacting a veterinarian if your pet becomes ill with a high fever
    or an abscess such as an open sore or swollen lymph nodes.
  • Making children aware of these precautions so they know to tell an
    adult if they have had contact with a wild animal or were bitten by

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