Colorado plague case: What to know for you and your pets

Story at a glance

  • Health officials have confirmed a human plague case in Pueblo County, Colorado.

  • Plague symptoms include sudden fever and chills, severe headache, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting.

  • People near the affected area should keep themselves and their pets safe by limiting their risk of contact with fleas.

(NewsNation) — Colorado health officials have confirmed a human case of plague in Pueblo County.

Plague can be treated with antibiotics. Anyone who suspects they may be infected should see a doctor immediately to avoid serious complications or death, Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment (PDPHE) official Alicia Solis said in a news release.

Plague symptoms include sudden fever and chills, severe headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and “a feeling of illness,” according to the PDPHE. Swollen lymph nodes with pain are also common symptoms.

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The PDPHE is investigating the potential source of the Colorado case. The bacterium that causes the illness is spread by fleas that live among wild rodents. Humans can contract plague through bites from infected fleas, by touching or skinning infected animals, or through droplets spread by the cough of an infected person or animal.

Local health officials ask the public to remove brush, rock piles, trash, piles of lumber and other spaces where rodents may hide or breed. People should also avoid contact with dead animals and use insect repellent that contains 20% to 30% DEET to prevent flea bites, according to the PDPHE. The spray should be applied to pants, socks, tops of shoes, arms and legs.

People near the affected area should also avoid letting their pets sleep with them in bed and regularly treat their dogs and cats for fleas, as flea collars have not been proven effective. Pet owners should additionally store their animals’ food in rodent-proof containers and avoid letting their pets hunt and roam in areas where rodents might be present.

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