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Pueblo health officials confirm human plague case in the county

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Posted at 5:59 PM, Jul 03, 2024

PUEBLO COUNTY — The Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment is investigating what they say is a human case of plague, based on preliminary test results.

On Monday, July 8, the county said that test results were positive for plague in a Pueblo County resident.l

The department has not given any details on who contracted the bacteria, or their condition. Officials are now working to track down the potential source of the disease.

The plague, "Yersinia pestis" is most commonly transmitted by fleas and other wild rodents, people can become affected by bites of infected fleas, touching infected animals, or inhaling droplets from the cough of an infected person or animal.

The Pueblo County Department of Public Health is recommending you do the following to keep yourself safe:

  • Eliminate places that rodents can hide and breed around your home, garage, shed or recreation area. Remove brush, rock piles, trash, and piles of lumber.
  • Avoid contact with dead animals. If you must handle sick or dead animals, follow these guidelines. First, put on an insect repellent to protect yourself from fleas. Then, use a long-handled shovel to place it in a garbage bag. Lastly, place the bag in an outdoor garbage can.
  • Use insect repellent that contains 20%-30% DEET to prevent flea bites. Treat pants, socks, shoe tops, arms, and legs.
  • Do not let pets sleep in bed with you.
  • Treat dogs and cats for fleas regularly. Flea collars have not been proven effective.
  • Do not allow pets to hunt or roam in rodent areas, such as prairie dog colonies.
  • Keep pet food in rodent-proof containers.

What are the symptoms?

Typically the plague will appear in symptoms to include fever and chills, severe headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and a feeling of illness. Another common symptom of plague is also swollen lymph nodes with pain.

"If you develop symptoms of plague, see a health care provider immediately. Plague can be treated successfully with antibiotics, but an infected person must be treated promptly to avoid serious complications or death,” said Alicia Solis, program manager of the Office of Communicable Disease and Emergency Preparedness at PDPHE.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above you should seek care immediately, the plague is treatable.

How common are human plague cases?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the plague is not too common at all in the United States. The CDC says that in the United States, there are an estimated 0-17 cases per year.

Globally, the World Health Organization reports between 1,000 - 3,000 cases of plague worldwide each year. Most cases are the bubonic form of the disease.

Most cases in the United States are concentrated in rural areas, with the northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, and southern Colorado regions being one of the major hot spots of the disease.

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