Health department warns about plague in Colorado, including El Paso County

Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment
Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment(CDPHE)
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 12:10 PM MDT
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EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KKTV) - The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is investigating reports of plague in animals and fleas in six counties.

Those counties include San Miguel, El Paso, Boulder, Huerfano, La Plata, and Adams. This comes after a 10-year-old from La Plata County died from causes associated with the plague.

“In Colorado, we expect to have fleas test positive for plague during the summer months.  Awareness and precautions can help prevent the disease in people. While it’s rare for people to contract plague, we want to make sure everyone knows the symptoms. The disease is treatable if caught early.  Let a medical provider know if you think you have symptoms of plague or if you think you’ve been exposed,” said Jennifer House, Deputy State Epidemiologist and Public Health Veterinarian for CDPHE.

CDPHE has several steps to decrease the risk of getting the plague:

  • Avoid fleas. Protect pets with veterinary-approved flea treatment and keep them on a leash and out of wild rodent habitats.
  • Stay out of areas where wild rodents live. If you enter areas inhabited by wild rodents, wear insect repellent and tuck your pant cuffs into your socks to prevent flea bites.
  • Avoid all contact with wild rodents, including squirrels. Do not feed or handle them.
  • Do not touch sick or dead animals.
  • Prevent rodent infestations around your house by clearing plants and materials away from outside walls, reducing access to food items, and setting traps.
  • Consult with a professional pest control company to treat the area around your home for fleas.
  • Contact a veterinarian if your pet becomes ill with a high fever and/or an abscess (i.e. open sore) or swollen lymph nodes. Pets with plague can transmit the illness to humans.
  • Children should be aware of these precautions and know to tell an adult if they have had contact with a wild animal or were bitten by fleas.

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