COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The El Paso County health department is reminding residents to be cautious after multiple squirrels died of suspected plague in two central Colorado Springs neighborhoods.
The health department said squirrels have died of suspected plague in the Patty Jewett and Divine Redeemer neighborhoods. Test results for the squirrels are pending confirmation from the state laboratory.
The health department said it’s common for plague to be present this time of year, and taking simple precautions can lower the risk of transmission to humans.
Plague is an infectious disease most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected flea, but it can also be transmitted by infected animal tissues, fluids, or respiratory droplets.
The health department recommends the following precautions to protect people and their pets:
- Do not directly handle any wildlife.
- Keep pets away from wildlife, especially dead rodents and rabbits.
- Don’t let dogs or cats hunt prairie dogs, other rodents, or rabbits.
- Don’t allow pets to roam freely.
- Treat all pets for fleas according to a veterinarian’s advice.
- Do not feed wildlife—this attracts them to your property, brings them in close contact, and increases the risk of disease transmission.
- Be aware of rodent and rabbit populations in your area and report sudden die-offs or multiple dead animals to El Paso County Public Health at (719) 578-3220.
Symptoms of plague include sudden fever, headache, chills, weakness, and tender, painful lymph nodes. People who think they have been exposed should contact a healthcare provider immediately.
While there are no publicly available vaccines to prevent plague in people, if caught early, it can be successfully treated with antibiotics in both people and pets.