Plague found in fleas in western Pueblo County

PUEBLO, Colo. — Plague has been found in fleas in western Pueblo County.

The Pueblo City-County Health Department said the fleas were captured during an investigation of a prairie dog die-off near the Beulah Highway and Water Barrel Road.

Fleas in the Turkey Creek and Hatchet Ranch areas of Pueblo County had already tested positive for the disease.

A Pueblo County resident died of plague in August. That was the first human case of the plague in the county since 2004. A teen in Larimer County died of the disease in June.

People infected with plague usually show symptoms two to six days after coming in contact with plague, according to the health department. Symptoms include fever, chills, weakness, and swollen and painful lymph nodes. A few people get pneumonia as a first symptom of plague. The infection then spreads to other parts of the body.

Plague can be treated with antibiotics when caught in time. If this disease is not treated immediately, many people who get sick will not survive.

The health department offered the following tips to prevent plague:

  • Avoid contact with all sick and dead rodents and rabbits. Look for the presence of blow flies or dead animal smell as evidence of animal die-offs. Prairie dog colonies that suddenly are not active may also be due to plague activity in the area. Report such die-offs to the Pueblo City-County Health Department at 719-583-4307.
  • While hiking, treat pants, socks, shoe tops, arms and legs with insect repellents.
  • If you hunt or trap rabbits or carnivorous wild animals, wear gloves and a respiratory mask while skinning or handling these animals. Fresh pelts may be treated with flea powder.
  • Keep your pets from roaming and hunting and talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product.
  • Do not let pets sleep in the bed with you. This has been shown to increase your risk of getting plague.
  • Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian.
  • DO NOT feed or entice any rodent or rabbit species into your yard, back porch, or patio. Do not catch, play with, or attempt to hand feed wild rodents.
  • Eliminate rodent habitat, such as piles of lumber, broken cement, trash and weeds around your home, outbuildings and cabins.

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