A dog tested positive for plague after a likely exposure near the Divide Trail Loop in Teller County’s Hayden Divide Park, according to a Monday news release from El Paso and Teller County public health officials.
Experts are warning the public to take precautions to help prevent plague exposure.
“While plague is common in the summer months, taking simple precautions can lower the risk of transmission to pets and humans,” said Michelle Hewitt, El Paso County public health information officer, in the news release.
Plague is spread by a bacteria that can be transmitted to people and pets from infected flea bites or by direct contact with infected animals, Hewitt said.
Anyone who suspects they may have been exposed should contact a health care provider immediately, Hewitt said.
Symptoms can include sudden fever, headache, chills, weakness and tender, painful lymph nodes.
Plague is treatable in people and pets if caught early with the use of antibiotics, Hewitt said. Experts strongly advised use of veterinary-approved flea control products for pets.
Plague is commonly found in prairie dogs, squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks and other rodents.
In July, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment urged residents to be careful around animals after plague was found in mammals and fleas from six counties and the state recorded its first death from the disease since 2015.
Colorado reported 22 human cases of plague from 2015 to 2020, according to the state health department. Almost half of the cases were in La Plata County, though at least one case has been reported in the last six years in Adams, Archuleta, Boulder, Denver, Grand, Larimer, Mesa and Pueblo counties
To help protect yourself, your pets or stock animals from plague, experts irecommend the following:
- Avoid fleas with insect and flea repellant for humans and vet-approved flea treatment for animals;
- Don’t handle wildlife directly;
- Leash pets;
- Keep pets away from wildlife, especially dead rodents and rabbits;
- Don’t allow dogs or cats to hunt prairie dogs, rodents or rabbits;
- Don’t feed wildlife;
- See a doctor if you come down with a high fever and/or swollen lymph nodes;
- Contact a veterinarian immediately if your pet or livestock become ill with a high fever and/or abscess or swollen lymph nodes.
To report sudden die-offs of rabbits or rodents or multiple dead animals, call El Paso County Public Health at 719-578-3220 or Teller County Public Health and Environment at 719-687-6416.
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