BREAKING: Squirrel tests positive for bubonic plague in Colorado

A squirrel has tested positive for the bubonic plague in Morrison, Colorado, according to Jefferson County public health officials. Now, officials have issued a warning for humans and their pets.

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Per Jefferson County, Colorado Public Health:

On Saturday, July 11, 2020, a squirrel found in the Town of Morrison tested positive for bubonic plague. The squirrel is the first case of plague in the county this year. Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, and can be contracted by humans and household animals if proper precautions are not taken.

Humans may be infected with plague through bites from infected fleas, by the cough from an infected animal or by direct contact (e.g., through a bite) with blood or tissues of infected animals. Cats are highly susceptible to plague and may die if not treated promptly with antibiotics.

Cats can contract plague from flea bites, a rodent scratch/bite or ingestion of a rodent. Dogs are not as susceptible to plague; however, they may pick up and carry plague-infected rodent fleas. Pet owners who suspect their pets are ill should consult a veterinarian. All pet owners who live close to wild animal populations, such as prairie dog colonies or other known wildlife habitats, should consult their veterinarian about flea control for their pets to help prevent the transfer of fleas to humans.

Symptoms of plague may include sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, nausea and extreme pain and swelling of lymph nodes, occurring within two to seven days after exposure. Plague can be effectively treated with antibiotics when diagnosed early. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should consult a physician.

TheHill reports a squirrel found in a Colorado town tested positive for bubonic plague, county health officials said.

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

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

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

Humans may be infected with the plague through bites from infected fleas or by direct contact with blood or tissue of infected animals. Cats are highly susceptible to plague and may die if not promptly treated with antibiotics. While dogs are not as susceptible, they can pick up and carry plague-infected rodent fleas, according to health officials.

Jefferson County health officials also recommended keeping pets from roaming freely outside homes, noting they may prey on wild animals and bring the disease home with them.

The squirrel is the first case of plague in the county this year, officials said.

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