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Plague confirmed in feral cat in Pagosa

San Juan Basin Health Department has confirmed that a feral cat from the Pagosa Springs area has tested positive for plague.

The animal was taken to a veterinary office and a specimen was sent to a state lab for testing. No humans have been infected.

Plague is endemic in the southwestern Colorado community and throughout the western United States. It exists within the natural, complex cycle of wild rodents and rabbits and their fleas.

Infected domestic animals generally have a history of outdoor exposure in rural areas. Free roaming pets have been increasingly implicated in human cases as they bring infected fleas into the home.

Sudden die-offs in prairie dog or other rodent populations may signal a plague risk in a given area. Residents who observe these population drops should contact the Health Department immediately at 264-2409.

Cats are highly susceptible to plague. Typical symptoms for cats are fever, lethargy and swollen lymph nodes. Seek professional veterinary care for such animals and do not handle suspiciously sick pets without gloves. Cats may transmit plague through transporting infected fleas into the home, bites, scratches and contact with infected tissue.

Plague can develop into pneumonic plague and be spread at that point by cats through respiratory droplets. Dogs are highly resistant to plague and do not transmit plague directly, but can transport infected fleas into the home.

Prevent plague in both cats and dogs by using approved flea control products. For more information on flea control for pets, contact your veterinarian.

The incubation period for human plague is two to six days. Typically, symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, sudden onset of fever or chills, severe headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and general feeling of illness. Human plague can be treated successfully and cured if it is diagnosed early. Consult a physician if sudden, unexplained illness occurs.

To prevent human plague infection, do not feed or entice any rodent, rabbit or squirrel. Avoid contact with sick and dead rodents, prairie dogs, rock squirrels, rabbits and feral cats. Remember to protect yourself and your pets from exposure to fleas.

For more information on plague, visit San Juan Basin Health Department’s website: www.sjbhd.org.

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