By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

Colorado health officials stated that there was a human plague case diagnosed earlier this summer in a resident from southwest Colorado who had exposure to sick squirrels.

Oriental rat flea, Xenopsylla cheopis/CDC

The patient had septicemic plague, which is in the blood and cannot be spread to other people. The resident recovered, and no other cases were identified.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) says this is the first human case reported since 2015.

This announcement comes after a squirrel in Jefferson County tested positive for the bacterial disease last week.

In addition, animal plague has been seen in limited access areas of Adams and Broomfield counties.

CDPHE advises the public to take the following precautions to protect themselves and their pets:

  • Do not directly handle any wildlife.
  • Keep pets away from wildlife, especially dead rodents and rabbits.
  • Don’t let dogs or cats hunt prairie dogs, other rodents, or rabbits.
  • Don’t allow pets to roam freely.
  • Treat all pets for fleas according to a veterinarian’s advice.
  • Do not feed wildlife – this attracts them to your property, brings them in close contact, and increases the risk of disease transmission.
  • Be aware of rodent and rabbit populations in your area, and report sudden die-offs or multiple dead animals to your local health department.

Plague is most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected flea but also may be transmitted by infected animal tissues, fluids, or respiratory droplets. People with direct exposure to fleas or wildlife in the affected areas may be at risk. People who think they have been exposed should contact a health care provider immediately. Symptoms include sudden fever, headache, chills, weakness, and tender, painful lymph nodes. While there are no publically available vaccines to prevent plague in people, if caught early, it can be successfully treated with antibiotics in both people and pets.