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Biological Health Threat – Bubonic Plague (Yersinia Pestis) Public Health Alert: Boulder County, Colorado


Published Date: 2017-05-05 11:38:52
Subject: PRO/AH/EDR> Plague, animal – USA (05): (CO) feline, bubonic, alert
Archive Number: 20170505.5014699

Date: Tue 2 May 2017 05:55:35 PM MDT
Source: Times Call [edited]

Boulder County [Colorado] Public Health is reminding people to take precautions against animalborne diseases after the pet cat of a family from Longmont tested positive for plague, according to a news release. [This is actually a vectorborne disease, as it is transmitted from fleas not from the animal itself. The fleas may get off of the animal onto another animal or a human being. But the affected animals does not transmit the disease. The infected animal is only the vehicle for the fleas. – Mod.TG]

The cat’s owners noticed that the cat was lethargic and had swollen lymph nodes on Easter Sunday [16 Apr 2017]. The cat tested positive for bubonic plague on 21 Apr 2017. The cat was given antibiotics and has improved, while the family is taking post-exposure plague medications and has not shown any symptoms, according to the news release. [Post exposure plague medication? This is only true in the sense that we typically do not take the necessary antibiotics until we have a reason, but this is a statement that is a bit out of the norm. – Mod.TG]

The cat is the 1st instance of confirmed plague in Boulder County this season. Plague occurs naturally in Colorado and is spread through fleas to wild rodents and small mammals such as squirrels, rats, prairie dogs and rabbits. Plague can spread to humans if they are bitten by an infected flea.

Carol McInnes, Boulder County Public Health environmental health specialist, said in the news release that people should limit their exposure to fleas to reduce the risk of plague spreading. “Keeping cats indoors is the best way to protect them from getting plague,” McInnes said. “Pet owners should also discuss the best way to protect pets from fleas with their veterinarians.”

Rain and warmer weather typically mark the beginning of spring migration season for many rodents and small mammals throughout the Front Range. This migration season can increase the risk of other animal-borne diseases such as rabies, tularemia, hantavirus and West Nile virus, according to the news release.

People should keep their property tidy and clear any areas where rodents or rabbits can hide and breed as well as storing bird and pet food away from areas that rodents could access. Stop pets from eating wild rodents and wear closed [toed] shoes in areas where animals have been sick or died. Do not mow over animal carcasses. Make sure pets are vaccinated against rabies. People should see a health care professional if they or their pet becomes sick after spending time near wildlife.

Bubonic plague
What is it? The commonest form of plague caused by the bacteria _Yersinia pestis_. It is an infection of the lymph nodes.

How does it spread? It spreads primarily through bites from infected fleas, which travel on small mammals and rodents. In some cases, the plague can be transmitted to humans from sick animals.

Is it treatable? People with plague need immediate antibiotic treatment in the 1st 24 hours that symptoms occur. Without treatment, about 50 per cent of people with bubonic plague die. With treatment, about 13 per cent of people infected with bubonic plague die.

What are the symptoms? Symptoms usually show up between 2 and 6 days after being infected. Chills, fever, fatigue or malaise, headache, muscle pain, seizures, and painful lymph gland swelling in the groin, armpits, or neck.

How do I avoid it? Protect pets from fleas and ticks and keep pets on a leash and out of wild rodent habitats. If you enter a wild rodent habitat, wear insect repellent and tuck pants cuffs into socks to prevent flea bites. Do not touch or feed wild rodents. Do not touch dead or sick animals. Prevent rodents in and around your home by clearing plants from outside walls, storing food properly and setting traps. Treat rodent sites with flea powder.

[byline: Karen Antonacci]

communicated by:
ProMED-mail from HealthMap Alerts

[The state of Colorado can be located on the HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map at Boulder County can be seen on the map at – Sr.Tech.Ed.MJ

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.

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.

Be sure to consult your veterinarian if you find a lump on your pet, as well as to get the best flea prevention treatment for your pet. It may be necessary to have your yard and/or home treated for fleas. Vacuum your home, including any bedding and furniture, and immediately upon finishing take the vacuum back outside, seal it in a plastic bag, and dispose of it. This type of cleaning will have to be repeated every week for 4-6 weeks to break the cycle of the flea in the home.

This disease should be taken seriously, so please be sure your pet is on some form of flea prevention. If you are hiking/biking/trekking/walking in the mountains or trails, then you will need some collars for your ankles and to check yourself carefully for fleas as well as note any abnormalities in your health. – Mod.TG]

See Also

Plague, animal – USA (04): (NM) feral cat, alert 20170419.4980169
Plague, animal – USA (03): (NM) feline, canine 20170412.4965194
Plague, animal – USA (02): (CO) prairie dog, alert 20170318.4910519
Plague, animal – USA: (NM) canine 20170211.4832639


Plague, animal – USA (07): (CO) prairie dog, alert 20161108.4615112
Plague, animal – USA (06): (CO): bubonic, feline 20160921.4503709
Plague, animal – USA (08): (MT) ferret, prairie dog, drone-delivered vaccine 20160714.4345331
Plague, animal – USA (07): (CA) squirrel 20160702.4322943
Plague, animal – USA (06): (ID) cat recovering, ground squirrel 20160616.4290356
Plague, animal – USA (05): (ID) domestic cat, ground squirrel 20160615.4287888
Plague, animal – USA (04): (CO) feral cat, alert 20160606.4267825
Plague, animal – USA (03): (ID) ground squirrel, domestic cat, susp 20160604.4265294
Plague, animal – USA (02): (WY) feline 20160423.4178118
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
and other items in the archives

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

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