Believe it or not, the infamous Bubonic Plague, or “Black Death”, of the Middle Ages is still in your back yard! Fortunately, sanitation and living conditions have improved so much that the plague is now not quite as threatening. However, there are still cases of plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, in humans and animals in Western Colorado today.
People can get plague from being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the plague, by handling an infected animal, or even by inhaling the bacteria from infected animals. Although a very serious disease, today’s modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague. If an infected person is not treated promptly, the disease is likely to cause serious illness or death.
You should avoid contact with all wild rodents, especially sick or dead rodents. In Western Colorado, prairie dogs are notorious for carrying plague. Dogs and cats should be confined so they cannot prey on rodents and then bring the disease home with them. Flea prevention should be kept current on all pets, following the direction of your veterinarian. Controlling the fleas on pets will prevent the transfer of fleas to humans.
The Health Department requests that citizens report any unusual rodent die-offs to the Environmental Health Division at 970-874-2165.