By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

Two confirmed cases of sylvatic plague in black-tailed prairie dogs at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge were reported Wednesday prompting the closures of several areas at the refuge and in Commerce City, CO.

Image/skeeze via pixabay

“Plague in prairie dog colonies is common in Colorado and can be managed safely with insecticide to kill the fleas that spread the disease,” said John M. Douglas, Jr., MD, Executive Director of Tri-County Health Department. “Our partners have voluntarily closed these locations to prevent any humans or pets from wandering into the affected areas.”

The US Fish and Wildlife Service says they have taken the following precautions to protect the health and safety of visitors, employees, and local community:

  • The Legacy and Discovery Trails near the Visitor Center, which are adjacent to the location where the infected prairie dogs were found, are currently closed until further notice.

  • Refuge staff are applying pesticide treatments to burrows in the impacted  prairie dog colonies to eliminate the fleas. The pesticide is a white powder visible around the top of prairie dog burrows.

  • Refuge staff is working closely with the City of Denver, Commerce City, Tri-County Health Department, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and other state and local partners.

Plague is a rare but serious disease caused by a bacterium. It can be transmitted to humans via rodents and their fleas.