Dog tests positive for plague in Teller County, experts urge caution

A dog tested positive for plague after a likely exposure near the Divide Trail Loop in Hayden Divide Park in Teller County, according to a news release from El Paso and Teller County’s health authorities on Monday.

Experts warn the public to take precautionary measures to prevent exposure to the plague.

“While the plague is widespread during the summer months, simple precautions can reduce the risk of transmission to pets and humans,” said Michelle Hewitt, El Paso County’s health information officer, in the press release.

The plague is spread by a bacterium that can be transmitted to people and pets through infected flea bites or through direct contact with infected animals, Hewitt said.

Anyone who suspects they’ve been exposed should see a doctor right away, Hewitt said.

Symptoms can include sudden fever, headache, chills, weakness, and tender, painful lymph nodes.

Plague is treatable in humans and pets if detected early with antibiotics, Hewitt said. Experts strongly advised the use of veterinary-approved flea control products for pets.

Plague is commonly found on prairie dogs, squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, and other rodents.

In July, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment urged residents to be careful with animals after plague was found in mammals and fleas in six counties and the state recorded its first death since 2015.

Colorado reported 22 human plague cases from 2015 to 2020, according to the state Department of Health. Almost half of the cases were in La Plata county, although at least one case has been reported in Adams, Archuleta, Boulder, Denver, Grand, Larimer, Mesa, and Pueblo counties in the past six years

To protect yourself, your pets, or farm animals from the plague, experts recommend the following:

  • Avoid fleas with insect and flea repellants for humans and veterinarian-approved flea products for animals;
  • Do not treat wildlife directly;
  • Pets on a leash;
  • Keep pets away from wildlife, especially dead rodents and rabbits;
  • Do not allow dogs or cats to hunt prairie dogs, rodents, or rabbits;
  • Do not feed wild animals;
  • See a doctor if you develop a high fever and / or swollen lymph nodes;
  • Contact a veterinarian immediately if your pet or livestock develops a high fever and / or abscess or swollen lymph nodes.

To report sudden rabbit or rodent death, 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.