Eagle house cat tests positive for plague
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – An house cat in the Eagle-area has tested positive for pneumonic plague.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment confirmed the case in the Eby Creek area of Eagle, which is the first identified feline case in the county. No human cases have been identified.
Eagle County Public Health Nurse Manager Anne Robinson says plague periodically cycles within rodent populations in the western U.S.
“Domestic cats that spend time outdoors are susceptible to plague, so cat owners should take care to keep their pets away from rodents,” she said.
Symptoms in cats such as a fever, discharge from the eyes, swollen tongue, mouth ulcers, enlarged tonsils, vomiting or diarrhea require immediate attention from a veterinarian. Dogs are generally resistant to plague.
In humans, symptoms of plague generally develop two to six days after infection and can include a sudden onset of high fever, muscle pain, malaise (a general feeling of being ill), nausea and vomiting and swelling in the armpit or groin area.
With pneumonic plague, individuals may also experience shortness of breath, oral or nasal discharge and coughing or sneezing. Those experiencing these symptoms should see their health care provider. Plague can be treated with the use of antibiotics.
Plague is transmitted by the bite of infected fleas infected to a variety of mammals. Ground squirrels, prairie dogs, rabbits and chipmunks are common hosts of infected fleas. Plague may be transmitted to humans by bites from fleas, by handling of infected animal carcasses, or by scratches, bites or the cough of infected cats.
Robinson says the best way to prevent plague is to control the presence of rodents and fleas in and around the home and to avoid contact with any species of wild rodents, especially sick or dead rodents. Parents should advise children to avoid contact with these animals.
Pet owners who live close to rodent populations should use flea control products recommended by their veterinarian. Controlling fleas on pets can prevent the transfer of fleas to humans.
“If these reasonable precautions are taken, the probability of contracting plague is extremely low,” said Robinson.
For more information, contact Rick Miklich, emergency preparedness coordinator for Eagle County Public Health, at 970-748-3284.
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