Laboratory testing completed last week has recently confirmed plague in a Fremont County cat, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH).
The Lander-area cat is an indoor-outdoor pet, known to hunt rodents, and is being treated.
While no human illnesses are associated with the current Fremont County situation, WDH reported a human case of pneumonic plague in a Fremont County individual with exposure to sick pet outdoor cats in September 2021. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during 2011-20 there was an average of six human plague cases each year in the United States.
“Plague is a serious bacterial infection that can be deadly for pets and people if not treated as soon as possible with antibiotics,” said Dr. Emily Curren, state public health veterinarian with WDH. “The disease can be passed to humans from ill animals and by fleas coming from infected animals. We are letting people know of the potential threat in the cat’s home area as well as offering a reminder about plague to people across the state.”
“While the disease is rare in humans, plague occurs naturally in the western United States in areas where rodents and their fleas become infected,” Curren said. “It is safe to assume a risk for plague exists all around our state.”
Recommended precautions to help prevent plague infection include:
• Use repellent if exposure to fleas is possible during activities such as camping, hiking or working outdoors. Products containing DEET can be applied to the skin as well as clothing.
• Keep fleas off indoor and outdoor pets by applying flea control products. Animals that roam freely outdoors are more likely to come into contact with plague-infected animals or fleas.
• Avoid unnecessary exposure to rodents, including avoiding areas with unexplained rodent die-offs and rodent carcasses.
• If pets become sick, seek care for them from a veterinarian as soon as possible.
• Do not allow dogs or cats that roam free to share beds with people.
• Reduce rodent habitats around the home, workplace and recreational areas by removing brush, rock piles, junk, cluttered firewood and possible rodent food supplies.
• Wear gloves and a mask if handling potentially infected or deceased animals to prevent contact between your skin and the plague bacteria and to prevent inhaling the plague bacteria.
Plague symptoms in pets can include enlarged lymph glands; swelling in the neck, face or around the ears; fever; chills; lack of energy; coughing; vomiting; diarrhea and dehydration.
Plague symptoms in people can include fever, swollen and tender lymph glands, extreme exhaustion, headache, chills, coughing, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. People who are ill should seek professional medical attention.