By NewsDesk @infectiousdiseasenews
A cat living near North Foothills Highway and Plateau Road in Boulder County was examined by a veterinarian on June 2 and tested positive for plague. The cat’s owner was concerned when the cat became ill 2-3 weeks after being found with a baby rabbit.
This is the first time plague activity has been confirmed in Boulder County this season and public health officials want to remind residents of how to protect themselves against plague.
Boulder County Parks and Open Space was notified of the positive plague in that area, and warning signs will be posted in this neighborhood with precautionary measures to avoid the plague.
“Because plague is most commonly transmitted by fleas, taking steps to avoid flea exposures will help prevent spread of the disease,” said Carol McInnes, Boulder County Public Health Environmental Health Specialist.
Public health officials recommend the following precautions to reduce the likelihood of being exposed to plague:
- AVOID FLEAS! Protect pets with flea treatment recommended by your veterinarian and keep pets on a leash and out of wildlife habitats.
- STAY OUT of areas that wild rodents and rabbits inhabit. If you enter areas with rodents or rabbits, wear insect repellent containing DEET and tuck pants cuffs into socks to prevent flea bites.
- AVOID all contact with wildlife, including rabbits and squirrels; do not feed or handle them.
- DO NOT TOUCH sick or dead animals.
- PREVENT rodent infestations around your house: clear plants and materials away from outside walls, reduce access to food items, and set traps.
- TREAT burrows on your property if you find dead rabbits or rodents with an insecticide approved by the EPA for use on fleas and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label.
Household pets, such as dogs and especially cats, can either get plague or carry infected fleas home to their owners. In rare instances, plague can be transmitted to people from cats sick with plague.
“Keeping cats indoors is the best way to protect them from getting plague,” said McInnes. “Pet owners should also discuss with their veterinarians the best way to protect pets from fleas.”
Plague occurs naturally in Colorado, and is an infectious disease spread by fleas to wild rodents and other small mammals such as prairie dogs and rabbits. Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague and occurs after a bite from an infected flea. Plague can spread to humans when infected fleas from rabbits, prairie dogs, and other wild rodents bite a human.
Symptoms of plague include high fever, extreme fatigue, and painful swollen lymph nodes. If you observe these symptoms in a person or pet, it is important to contact your healthcare provider or veterinarian immediately. Plague can be treated with antibiotics, but this treatment is most successful when the disease can be diagnosed quickly.