About three weeks ago, health officials in Idaho reported a plague case in a Elmore County cat, which was treated and recovered. Yesterday, officials with the Central District Health Department say lab tests show that another county cat had plague and likely died from it.
The cat was feral, but recently had been cared for by an Elmore County family as an outdoor cat. The cat had known contact with ground squirrels, also known as “whistle pigs,” before passing. Family members are being treated with antibiotics as a precaution.
Ground squirrels in Idaho’s desert sagebrush areas are known to be a source of plague. The highest risk for plague exposure to animals and humans occurs March through July.
Idaho wildlife officials have not detected any ground squirrel die-offs in the state so far this year.
“In addition to protecting their own pets with flea control, people should avoid contact with feral animals due to the risk of diseases like plague, said Sarah Correll, Epidemiologist with Central District Health Department.” People can be exposed to plague when pets bring infected fleas back into the home, by caring for a sick pet or feral animal without proper precautions, or by contact with rodents carrying fleas,” said Correll.
Plague is transmitted through the bite of infected fleas and can cause serious illness in people and pets if not treated promptly. It also can be transmitted to people by direct contact with infected animals, including rodents, rabbits, and pets. Common rodents that can become infected include ground squirrels, rats, voles, and mice. Tree squirrels in Idaho are not known to carry plague.
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