Squirrel tests positive for bubonic plague in Colorado

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MORRISON, Colo. (KDVR) – Health officials in one Colorado county are warning residents after a squirrel tested positive for bubonic plague.

The animal was found in the Town of Morrison, about 17 miles southwest of Denver.

This is the first positive case of plague in Jefferson County this year, health officials said.

Plague can be spread to humans or other animals through direct contact, including bites, or through bites from infected fleas, and is caused by a bacteria called Yersinia pestis.

Jefferson County Public Health said cats are especially susceptible to plague and may die if not treated with antibiotics promptly. Dogs are at a lower risk but may pick up and carry infected fleas.

Symptoms of plague in humans include sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, nausea and extreme pain and swelling of lymph nodes, occurring within two to seven days after exposure. It can be effectively treated with antibiotics when diagnosed early.

Risk for getting plague is extremely low as long as precautions are taken.

Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) recommended residents take the following precautions:

  • Eliminate all sources of food, shelter and access for wild animals around the home.
  • Do not feed wild animals.
  • Maintain a litter and trash-free yard to reduce wild animal habitats.
  • People and pets should avoid contact with sick or dead wild animals and rodents.
  • Use precaution when handling sick pets. Have sick pets examined by a veterinarian.
  • Consult with your veterinarian about flea and tick control for your pets.
  • Keep pets from roaming freely outside the home where they may prey on wild animals and bring the disease home with them.

To learn more about animal-borne diseases in Jefferson County, including plague, please visit www.jeffco.us/2368.

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