Yavapai County Community Health Service (YCCHS) officials are issuing a warning to residents and visitors of the Mingus Mountain area to take extra precautions following the discovery of plague in a sick cat from the town of Jerome Arizona. Two additional cats have been taken from the area for testing.
“Educating the public about the symptoms of plague and avoiding dead animals is what we need to do right now” said Public Health Protection Manager, Cecil Newell. “Plague is one of those diseases that naturally circulate in wildlife from time to time.”
Plague can bring on severe and sometimes fatal breathing problems if left untreated. The bacteria live in the bloodstream and saliva of infected animals and can spread to other animals or humans through flea bites or when people are bitten or scratched by the infected animal. YCCHS Epidemiologist, Stephen Everett said “While it is possible, it would be extremely rare for someone to get plague by inhaling the drops of saliva sprayed into the air when an animal coughed.”
Respiratory plague cases will have flu-like symptoms plus a cough and may develop rapidly advancing pneumonia. Bubonic plague symptoms, which develop from one to six days after exposure, include a sudden onset of flu-like symptoms such as chills, breathing problems, fever, headache and extreme exhaustion or painful, swollen glands in the groin, neck or armpit areas.
Plague is a naturally occurring disease found in Arizona mostly in animal die-offs. Since 2000 there have been only two cases of plague diagnosed in Arizona residents. The most recent Yavapai County resident case was in 1991. With prompt diagnosis and treatment, today people can and do recover swiftly and completely.
“If residents see an unexplainable large die-off in local wildlife,” says Newell, “we would like to hear about it.” Call 771-3122 if you notice large numbers of dead squirrels, chipmunks, rodents or other wildlife.