Health director for the Apache County (AZ) Health Department said in a news release Wednesday that fleas from prairie dogs burrows have been confirmed positive for the bacterium, Yersinia pestis, the agent of plague.

Prairie dog burrow
Prairie dogs
Image/Singer Ron, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The burrows are located in Old Concho on the south side of Highway 61. The die-off occurred earlier in the month.

Sexton said that even though the risk of contracting plague is low, it is a good idea to take preventive measures to keep yourself and your pets safe.

People and pets should avoid prairie dogs burrows in an area of a recent die off.

LISTEN: Plague: An interview with Dr. Paul Ettestad

Use insect repellent if you think you could be exposed to rodent fleas during activities like camping, hiking or working outdoors.

Keep fleas off your pets by applying flea control products.

Do not allow cats or dogs that roam and hunt to sleep in your bed as they can carry fleas.

Reducing rodent presence in and around your homes is a good precaution as well.

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 and treated quickly.