Squirrel tests positive for bubonic plague in Colorado

© Hill
Squirrel tests positive for bubonic plague in Colorado

County health officials said a squirrel found in the city of Colorado tested positive for the bubonic plague.

Jefferson County health officials said in a statement Sunday that a squirrel found in the city of Morrison, just west of Denver, tested positive for the bubonic plague on Saturday.

Health officials warned that bubonic plague may be contracted by humans and domestic animals if “proper precautions” are not taken.

The county is recommending people eliminate all sources of food, shelter and access to wild animals around their homes. The public is also urged not to feed wild animals, maintain litter-free and waste-free yards to reduce wild animal habitats and avoid contact with sick or dead wild animals and rodents.

Humans can become infected with the plague by a bite from an infected flea or by direct contact with the blood or tissue of infected animals. Cats are susceptible to plague and can lead to death if not treated immediately with antibiotics. While dogs are not susceptible, they can pick up and carry plague-infected rodent fleas according to health officials.

Health officials in Jefferson County also recommended preventing pets from roaming in the open outside the homes, noting that they could hunt wild animals and bring the disease home with them.

Officials said the squirrel is the first case of plague in the county this year.

Bubonic plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis.

According to disease control and prevention data from 1970 to 2018, on average seven human plague cases have been reported in the US each year, a range of one to 17 cases per year.

Local health officials said last month that a shepherd from a Chinese region in Inner Mongolia had detected a case of bubonic plague.

– 6:15 AM

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