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San Juan Basin Health (SJBH) in coordination with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has identified a case of bubonic plague in a La Plata County resident. The patient has been treated and released from the hospital. SJBH is investigating possible sources of plague exposure for the case.
In recent decades an average of seven human plague cases have been reported each year nationwide. Most human cases in the United States are scattered in rural areas and occur predominantly in two regions:
Northern New Mexico, northern Arizona and southern Colorado
California, southern Oregon and far western Nevada
Bubonic plague is the most common form of the disease in humans. Symptoms begin two to six days after the bite of an infected flea, or contact with an infected rodent or cat. Typical symptoms include sudden onset of fever, headache, chills, weakness and one or more swollen, tender, and painful lymph nodes (called buboes). Bubonic plague can be successfully treated with antibiotics when diagnosed promptly. If you have had a possible exposure to infected rodents or fleas and are experiencing these symptoms, consult a physician as soon as possible. Four other cases of human plague have been identified this year in Adams County. Colorado has had a total of 64 cases of human plague, nine (14 %) of which were fatal, since 1957.
So far this year two rodents and a dog have tested positive for plague in Colorado. Twelve flea samples have also tested positive for plague. Since domestic cats and dogs can carry infected fleas into the home, it is important to consult your veterinarian for information about effective flea control for your pets.
Tips to protect yourself:
Do not touch or approach wild animals.
Wear gloves if you must handle sick or dead animals.
Do not let pets sleep in the bed with you. This has been shown to increase your risk of getting plague.
Use an insect repellent containing DEET or permethrin to prevent flea bites. Be sure to follow the label directions for use.
Eliminate rodent habitat, such as piles of lumber, broken cement, trash and weeds around your home or recreational cabin. Make sure that houses and outbuildings are rodent-proof.
Learn More: To learn more about plague visit www.cdc.gov/plague.