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10-year-old dies from plague, health officials warn of symptoms

Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 2:10 PM EDT
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LAPLATA COUNTY, Colo. (Gray News) – A 10-year-old in Colorado has died from causes associated with plague, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

The CDPHE says laboratory testing has confirmed reports of plague in animals and fleas from six counties in the state.

Most human plague cases are contracted directly from fleas or by having direct contact with an infected animal.

According to the CDPHE, plague is treatable in both people and pets when detected early.

Symptoms include a sudden, high fever and swollen lymph nodes.

“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,” said Jennifer House, Deputy State Epidemiologist and Public Health Veterinarian for CDPHE.

Aside from fleas, plague is often found in rock squirrels, woodrats and other species of ground squirrels and chipmunks. Experts say prairie dogs are very susceptible to plague.

CDPHE provided the following tips to control the presence of wildlife and fleas around homes:

  • Avoid fleas. Protect pets with a 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.

House says it’s important to let a medical provider know if you think you have symptoms or think you’ve been exposed to the plague.

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