- The bubonic plague is infamously known for causing the Black Death.
- County health officials said humans and pets can get the disease from infected flea bites and the cough of an infected animal.
- People and pets should avoid contact with wild rodents, experts say.
A house cat tested positive for the bubonic plague in Colorado at the end of October, health officials say.
The positive cat was from Evergreen, less than 20 miles southwest of Denver. Jefferson County health officials said its the first case of the plague in the county this year, and they believe the animal got it from a sick rodent, likely a rat. The cat tested positive on Oct. 29.
“While plague is a serious disease, and cases of animal-borne disease in household pets is never something we like to see, it is normal and expected for some animals to contract plague in Jefferson County each year,” Jim Rada, the director of environmental health services at Jefferson County Public Health, said in a statement. “The good news is that modern antibiotics are effective against plague, and as long as it is treated promptly, severe complications, illness or death can be avoided.”
The bubonic plague is one of three different types of plague, along with septicemic and pneumonic. The disease comes from the Yersinia pestis bacteria, which can be found all over the world and can be spread through animals such as rodents and humans. The bubonic plague is infamously known for causing the Black Death, which resulted in millions of deaths in Europe, Africa and Asia during the 1300s.
This isn’t the first time Colorado has dealt with the plague this year. In July, the state’s department of public health and environment said the plague had been identified in animals and fleas in six counties. A 10-year-old resident died “from causes associated with plague.”
County health officials said humans and pets can get the disease from infected flea bites and the cough of an infected animal. Pets like cats and dogs can also get it by eating an infected rodent or picking up an infected rodent with its mouth. Officials also said cats are more susceptible to death from the plague if they aren’t given antibiotics immediately.
Things people can do to keep themselves and their pets safe from the plague include getting rid of pet and wild animal food left outside, getting rid of outside trash, using flea control products on pets and not directly touching possible infected animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The bottom line is people – and their pets – should avoid contact with any species of wild rodent, especially ones that are sick, dying or already dead,” Rada said. “We know that pets can be unpredictable, but there are things pet owners can do to keep their four-legged family members safe, especially when they live close to rodent populations such as prairie dog colonies.”
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