Cat infects Wyoming resident with pneumonic plague; cases ‘rare but serious’ | The Hole Scroll

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The Wyoming Department of Health announced Thursday that a Fremont County resident became infected with pneumonic plague after coming into contact with a sick domestic cat.

The case was “rare, but serious,” it said in a press release.

The last confirmed case of pneumonic plague was reported in Teton County in 2008. Other reported cases include: an out of state case in Goshen County in 2004, a Washakie County case in 2000, and a death in Sheridan County in 1992.

State health officials said the case occurred in northern Fremont County, which is home to Dubois, Shoshoni and Riverton, among other towns and rural areas.

Plague is a potentially fatal bacterial infection that is transmitted to humans from sick animals or fleas. It can also be transmitted from person to person through the air, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People with known exposure to plague need post-exposure antibiotic treatment to prevent disease, the press release said. The Ministry of Health informs people who may need such treatment.

The plague can manifest itself in three forms: pneumonia, which is highly communicable and infects the lungs; Bumps, which are less infectious and target the lymph glands, and septicemic, which occurs when plague bacteria multiply in the blood. Common symptoms, according to the CDC, are fever, headache, chills, and weakness.

Pneumonic plague is the most severe form and the only form that can be transmitted from person to person. Pneumonic plague can develop from inhaling infectious droplets or from untreated bubonic plague or septicemic plague.

The state’s health officer and epidemiologist, Dr. Alexia Harrist said while the risk of people developing the plague is very low in Wyoming, the disease has been documented in pets and wildlife across the state.

“It is safe to assume that the risk of plague is everywhere in our state,” Harrist said in the press release. “Although the disease is rare in humans, it is important that people take precautions to reduce exposure and seek immediate medical attention if symptoms comparable to the plague develop.”