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Case of Human Plague Confirmed in Colorado

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By Robin Foster HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, July 10, 2024 (HealthDay News) — Colorado health officials on Tuesday confirmed a case of human plague in that state.

The infection — which occurred in Pueblo County, in the southern part of the state — was first reported Friday based on preliminary test results, while the source of the infection is still being tracked down.

“Plague can be treated successfully with antibiotics, but an infected person must be treated promptly to avoid serious complications or death,” Alicia Solis, program manager of the Office of Communicable Disease and Emergency Preparedness at the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment, said in a news release announcing the case.

“We advise all individuals to protect themselves and their pets from plague,” she added.

This is not the first case of plague that Colorado has seen: The state had 67 reported cases between 1970 and 2022, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the United States as a whole, an average of seven human plague cases are reported each year.

Worldwide, 3,248 human plague cases were reported between 2010 and 2015, the World Health Organization says.

Unfortunately, “a plague vaccine is no longer available in the United States,” the CDC notes. “New plague vaccines are in development, but are not expected to be commercially available in the immediate future.”

Caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, the plague is an infectious disease typically spread by fleas. Once known as “The Black Death,” which killed millions in Europe during the Middle Ages, the plague circulates naturally among wild rodents and rarely infects humans today.

Anyone who develops symptoms of plague should see their doctor immediately, the CDC says. Typical symptoms include sudden fever and chills, severe headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and, commonly, swollen lymph nodes with pain.

What can people do to avoid infection?

One way is to eliminate places where wild rodents can exist close to humans such as brush, rock piles, trash and piles of lumber around homes, garages, sheds and recreation areas, according to Colorado health officials.

Taking precautions around pets can also reduce risk of transmission. Health officials suggest treating dogs and cats for fleas, keeping pet food in rodent-proof containers and not letting pets roam in rodent areas or sleep in bed with you.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the plague.

SOURCES: Pueblo County Health Department, news releases, July 5, 2024, and July 9, 2024

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