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Biological Hazard – Plague (Yersinia Pestis) Animal Infection: Wyoming


Published Date: 2016-04-23 12:19:05
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Plague, animal – USA (02): (WY) feline
Archive Number: 20160423.4178118

Date: Thursday, 21 Apr 2016
Source: Wyoming Department of Health [edited]

Three Park County cats have recently been confirmed as infected with plague, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH). No human cases have been identified. All 3 cats lived in Cody, off the South Fork Road. The illness was confirmed in the 1st pet by the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory in Laramie on 12 Apr 2016, with confirmation of the 3rd on 20 Apr 2016.

“Plague is a serious bacterial infection that can be deadly for pets and for people if not treated promptly with antibiotics,” said Dr Karl Musgrave, state public health veterinarian with WDH. “The disease can be transmitted to humans from ill animals and by fleas coming from infected animals. We want people to know of the potential threat in the area the cats were from as well as across the state. Dogs can also become ill and transmit the disease.”

“While the disease is rare in humans, it’s safe to assume that the risk for plague exists all around Wyoming,” Musgrave said. Six human cases of plague have been confirmed in Wyoming since 1978 with the last one reported in 2008. There are an average of 7 human cases across the nation each year.

Precautions Musgrave recommends to help prevent plague infections include:
– avoid unnecessary exposure to rodents;
– avoid contact with rodent carcasses;
– avoid areas with unexplained rodent die-offs;
– use insect repellent on boots and pants when in areas that might have fleas;
– use flea repellent on pets, and properly dispose of rodents pets may bring home.

Plague signs in animals can include enlarged lymph glands; swelling in the neck, face or around the ears; fever; chills; lack of energy; coughing; vomiting; diarrhea and dehydration. Ill animals should be taken to a veterinarian.

Plague symptoms in people can include fever, swollen and tender lymph glands, extreme exhaustion, headache, chills, coughing, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. People who are ill should seek professional medical attention.

More information about plague is available online from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at

communicated by:

[Plague is transmitted by fleas. There are several forms of plague in human beings: bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic.

Plague, caused by _Yersinia pestis_, is enzootic among rodents in the western United States. Humans can be infected through 1) the bite of an infected flea carried by a rodent or, rarely, other animals; 2) direct contact with contaminated tissues; or 3) in rare cases, inhalation of respiratory secretions from infected people or animals.

Plague is a potential bioterrorism agent. Human infections are rare but can be life-threatening. The case fatality rate of plague depends on the clinical presentation (that is, bubonic, septicemic, or pneumonic) and timing of initiation of antibiotic therapy; if untreated, the case fatality rate is over 50 per cent for bubonic plague and approaches 100 per cent for pneumonic plague. Rapid laboratory identification can help guide therapy.

Domestic cats and dogs can also contract plague from infective fleas. They may carry infected fleas home to their owners. Cats may serve as a direct source of infection. There are many flea treatments and repellents appropriate for pets available. Some products may be suitable for dogs but not cats, or may be suitable for an adult but not a younger animal. Be sure to consult your veterinarian, as some products may be toxic to cats, kittens, and puppies, even resulting in fatalities.

Clinical signs in pets involve a localized swelling, such as under the jaw in cats, but also in the inguinal region or under the front leg (the armpit, if you will), lethargy, anorexia, and fever. These clinical signs may be present in the dog as well. Swelling under the jaw in cats is frequently mistaken as a cat fight abscess. Please take your pet to a veterinarian if you notice any abnormalities.

Veterinarians should protect themselves by wearing gloves when examining these swellings. A bubo that ruptures may infect the veterinarian or even the pet owner if the pet owner is the one palpating the swelling.

Another form of the disease is the respiratory form. Cats may acquire this form and can spread it to their owners or the veterinarians through infected expiratory droplets. People are also prone to the respiratory infection.

You should also be aware that the fleas that hitchhike into the home via a pet vehicle can also transmit disease to you, the owner, or caretaker of the pet. Sleeping in the same bed with dogs has been associated with plague in enzootic areas. Plague patients with no history of exposure to rodents can be infected by _Y. pestis_ if their pets carry infected rodent fleas into the home. Veterinarians always should recommend flea control to dog and cat owners.

Plague is infamous for killing millions of people in Europe during the Middle Ages. Today, modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague. Without prompt treatment, the disease can cause serious illness or death. Presently, human plague infections continue to occur in the western United States, but significantly more cases occur in parts of Africa and Asia.

Parts of this comment have been excerpted from: CDC. Notes from the field: two cases of human plague — Oregon, 2010. MMWR, 25 Feb 2011; 60(07);214 And from – Mod.TG

A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:]

See Also

Plague, animal – USA: (NM) pets 20160117.3944780

Plague, animal – USA (14): (CA) squirrel 20150907.3629694
Plague, animal – USA (13): (CA) squirrel 20150819.3588477
Plague, animal – USA (12): (CO) feline 20150802.3552460
Plague, animal – USA (11): (CO) squirrel 20150727.3540232
Plague, animal – USA (10): (UT) sylvatic, prairie dog, alert 20150715.3513063
Plague, animal – USA (09): (CO) mule deer, prairie dog 20150628.3470704
Plague – USA (02): (CO) fatality 20150623.3458401
Plague, animal – USA (08): (ID) vole, susp. 20150617.3443480
Plague, animal – USA (07): (ID) canine 20150608.3417597
Plague, animal – USA (06): (NE) prairie dog, spread 20150601.3400360
Plague, animal – USA (05): (ID) ground squirrel, alert 20150529.3394344
Plague, animal – USA (04): (NM) feline, canine 20150517.3368466
Plague, animal – USA (03): (AZ) feline, warning 20150511.3354008
Plague – USA: (CO) pneumonic, canine source, poss. human-to-human spread, 2014 20150501.3335475
Plague, animal – USA (02): (AZ) prairie dogs, fleas 20150406.3280037
Plague, animal – USA: (NM) multiple animals 20150116.3097674

Plague – USA (06): (CO) septicemic 20140908.2757605
Plague, animal – USA (07): (CO) prairie dog, rabbit 20140825.2720056
Plague, animal – USA (06): comment 20140807.2666637
Plague, animal – USA (05): (CA) squirrel 20140804.2656788
Plague – USA (04): (NM) 20140803.2656232
Plague – USA (03): (CO) cluster from canine exposure 20140719.2621418
Plague, animal – USA: (NM) zoo 20140729.2643587
Plague – USA (02): (CO) pneumonic 20140710.2600593
Plague – USA: (NM) pneumonic 20140425.2430602

A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the International Society for Infectious Diseases

Category A Priority Pathogens

Plague is a Category A Bioterrorism agent. Category A Bioterrorism organisms/biological agents are high-priority pathogens posing a risk to national security, can be easily transmitted and disseminated, result in high mortality, have potential major public health impact, may cause public panic, or require special action for public health preparedness. — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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