A feral cat found on Hanson Road near Cedaredge tested positive for plague over the Memorial Day weekend. This is the first plague activity detected in Delta County this season. The sick cat was taken to Surface Creek Veterinary Center where it was tested for plague and then euthanized. Contact the Delta County Health Department, 874-2165, if you find dead rabbits, squirrels, or prairie dogs in this area.
"Plague is commonly transmitted by fleas, so taking steps to avoid fleas will help prevent spread of the disease," said Ken Nordstrom, Delta County Health Department environmental health director.
Public health officials recommend the following steps to reduce being exposed to plague:
• Avoid fleas. Protect pets with flea control products and keep them on a leash and out of wild rodent habitats.
• Stay out of areas with wild rodents. If you must enter areas with wild rodents, wear insect repellent. You may also tuck pants cuffs into socks to prevent flea bites.
• Avoid all contact with wild rodents, including squirrels and chipmunks.
• Do not touch sick or dead animals.
• Prevent rodents living around your house: clear plants and materials away from outside walls, prevent access to pet food and trash, and set traps.
Cats and dogs that roam and hunt can carry infected fleas home to their owners. In rare instances pets that contract plague can transmit the disease to people.
"Keeping pets from roaming and hunting, and using flea control on them is the best way to protect them from getting plague," said Nordstrom.
Plague is an infectious disease that occurs naturally in Colorado. It is spread by flea bites among small wild mammals such as squirrels, woodrats, chipmunks, ground squirrels, prairie dogs and rabbits. Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague and occurs after a bite from an infected flea. Plague can be spread to humans when infected fleas bite a human.
Symptoms of plague include a sudden, high fever, extreme fatigue, and sometimes but not always painful swollen lymph nodes (called buboes). About half of the people infected with plague will also have gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and/or abdominal pain. Anyone who observes these symptoms in a person or pet should contact their health care provider or veterinarian immediately. Plague can be treated with common antibiotics, and treatment is most successful when begun early.
For more information about plague, visit https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/plague or call 874-2165.