By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

According to a report in the Durango Herald today, local health officials say a sample of fleas collected in south central La Plata County has tested positive for Yersinia pestis, the bacterial agent of plague.

Health authorities are reaching out to residents near where the plague-positive fleas were collected and encouraging residents to take precautions.

“With a local sample of fleas testing positive for plague, it’s critical residents protect themselves. The community near the location of the positive sample is being notified directly, but all residents in La Plata and Archuleta counties should be on alert and take steps to control the presence of fleas and wildlife around homes,” said Liane Jollon, Executive Director of the San Juan Basin Public Health.

Plague has been found in animals in multiple Colorado counties this summer and caused the death of a 10-year-old La Plata County resident on July 5.

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis. It is found in animals throughout the world, most commonly rats but other rodents like ground squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, rabbits and marmots in China. Fleas typically serve as the vector for plague.

People can also get infected through direct contact with an infected animal, through inhalation and in the case of pneumonic plague, person to person.

Yersinia pestis is treatable with antibiotics if started early enough.

There are three forms of human plague; bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic.