By Flannery O’Neil
Special to The SUN
San Juan Basin Health (SJBH), in coordination with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), has identified a human case of septicemic plague in a La Plata County resident. An investigation is underway to determine the source of exposure. The patient is currently receiving treatment.
Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague; septicemic plague is seen less often. Symptoms typically include fever, chills, extreme weakness, abdominal pain, shock and possibly bleeding into the skin and other organs. You can get septicemic plague from handling an infected animal or from bites of infected fleas. This is the second case of plague in La Plata County this year. Since 1957, Colorado has identified 65 cases of human plague, nine (14 percent) of which were fatal.
One hundred and fifty-seven samples have been tested for plague this year at public health laboratories. Two rodents, one rabbit, one dog and one cat have all tested positive for plague in Colorado. Fourteen 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 about how to effectively control fleas on your pets.
Tips to protect yourself and your family from getting plague:
• 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 (for use on clothing) to prevent flea bites. Be sure to follow the label directions for use.
• Eliminate rodent habitats such as firewood or lumber piles, trash and weeds from around your home or recreational cabin.
• Rodent-proof houses and outbuildings.
To learn more about plague, visit www.cdc.gov/plague.