The first plague case was identified in Boulder County this season after a cat tested positive for the disease on June 2.
The cat’s owner had the cat checked by a veterinarian after contracting a baby rabbit two to three weeks after it was found, according to a press release from Boulder County Public Health.
The cat lived near the North Foothills Highway and Plateau Road in Boulder County.
Boulder County Parks and Open Space has been notified of the positive case and warning signs are being put up in this neighborhood with precautions to be taken to avoid the plague.
“Since the plague is most commonly transmitted by fleas, measures to prevent flea exposure can help prevent the disease from spreading,” said Carol McInnes, environmental health expert for Boulder County Public Health, in the press release.
BCPH spokeswoman Angela Simental said the last positive plague case in Boulder County was a cat in Longmont in April 2017. Other specimens sent in for plague tests after that time have tested negative until the most recent positive test result.
In May, a squirrel in El Paso County tested positive for the plague, according to a release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Pets like dogs, and cats in particular, can either catch the plague or carry infected fleas home to their owners, the statement said. In rare cases, the plague can be transmitted to humans from cats infected with the plague.
“Keeping cats indoors is the best way to protect them from the plague,” said McInnes. “Pet owners should also discuss with their vets how best to protect their pets from fleas.”
The plague is naturally occurring in Colorado and is an infectious disease that is transmitted to wild rodents and other small mammals such as prairie dogs and rabbits through fleas. The bubonic plague is the most common form of the plague and occurs after a bite from an infected flea. The plague can spread to humans when infected fleas from rabbits, prairie dogs, and other wild rodents bite a human.
Symptoms of the plague include a high fever, extreme fatigue, and painful swollen lymph nodes. If you observe these symptoms in a person or pet, it is important to contact your doctor or veterinarian immediately. The plague can be treated with antibiotics, but this treatment is most effective when the disease can be diagnosed quickly.
BCPH recommends residents to adhere to the following recommendations:
- Avoid fleas and protect pets with veterinarian-recommended flea treatment, and keep pets on leashes and out of wildlife habitats.
- Stay away from areas where wild rodents and rabbits live. When entering areas with rodents or rabbits, wear insect repellant with DEET and tuck pant cuffs into socks to prevent flea bites.
- Avoid all contact with wildlife including rabbits and squirrels. Do not feed or handle them.
- Do not touch sick or dead animals.
- Prevent rodent infestation around your home: remove plants and materials from outside walls, reduce access to food, and set traps.
- If you find dead rabbits or rodents on your property, treat burrows with an insecticide approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for use against fleas and follow the manufacturer’s directions on the label.