Following a case of bubonic plague infection in Montezuma County earlier this month, state and local health officials are looking into and keeping an eye on activities throughout southwest Colorado. According to officials, the exposure to the disease most likely happened on private premises.
A bacteria called Yersinia pestis, which causes the bubonic plague, can be spread to people by direct contact with infected animals or by being bitten by infected fleas. Squirrels, woodrats, and prairie dogs are among the animals that are susceptible to the plague.
Low Risk to the Public
Despite the low risk to the public, representatives from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Montezuma County Public Health Department advised Coloradans to take precautions, especially since the risk of contracting diseases from animals rises in the summer when people and animals are more likely to come into contact.
The symptoms of the bubonic plague are similar to those of the flu — fever, headache, weakness, muscular pains, chills, cough, shortness of breath — but they are more severe, with some victims coughing up blood and pneumonia developing swiftly. Officials advised anyone experiencing these symptoms who may have been in contact with fleas or rodents to seek immediate medical attention.
In order to look into possible bubonic plague activity, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) is collaborating with the Montezuma County Public Health Department. According to public health officials, one adult in Montezuma County tested positive for the human plague, which most likely happened on private land.
Prairie dogs are more Susceptible
CDPHE declares Coloradans can still take precautions to help protect themselves from the plague, which, according to CDPHE, is regularly prevalent in Colorado each year infecting fleas and animals, even though the risk to the general people is low.
Infected fleas can potentially transmit the plague to pets. They claim that Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes the plague, can be spread to people through the bites of infected fleas or by direct contact with diseased animals. It is widely found in woodrats, rock squirrels, and other ground squirrel and chipmunk species. Particularly susceptible to the plague are prairie dogs, which can serve as good indicators of their presence because they abruptly disappear despite being active above ground.
In particular, if a plague is prevalent, residents shouldn’t kill prairie dogs as this could enhance the danger of transmission. Contact your local public health office if you discover dead rats in an area where you typically find active rodents. Fever, headache, weakness, muscle aches, coughing, shortness of breath, swollen or painful lymph nodes, and chills are frequently observed plague sickness symptoms.
While some of these bubonic plague symptoms may resemble flu symptoms, others, such as coughing up blood, feeling sick to one’s stomach or experiencing stomach pain, and throwing up, can be considerably more severe. According to CDPHE, pneumonia can also emerge shortly after symptoms appear.