ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. - Three more Colorado residents have contracted plague, for a total of four related cases.
All four infected people had direct contact with a dog who died of the disease, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced. CDPHE suspects the dog was exposed to the disease by a prairie dog or rabbit carrying plague-infected fleas in eastern Adams County.
The three new plague patients had mild symptoms and were treated with antibiotics. CDPHE says they are no longer contagious.
The first human patient, however, remains in the hospital.
"Although person-to-person transmission of plague is extremely rare, individuals who may have been exposed through close contact with the four cases have been identified, and have received antibiotic treatment or are being monitored for symptoms when indicated," CDPHE spokesman Mark Salley wrote in a news release.
Additionally, Tri-County Health Department staff members went door-to-door delivering information about plague. The teams also assessed prairie dog populations.
"Symptoms of plague include a sudden onset of high fever, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, or a general feeling of being ill," Salley explained. "Individuals with pneumonic plague (the lung form) develop fever, headache, weakness, shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing, which can lead to respiratory failure."
Salley also provided this list of precautions to prevent plague exposure from Dr. Jennifer House, a public health veterinarian:
Do not directly handle any dead rodents, including prairie dogs, rabbits, squirrels, mice and rats.
Keep pets away from wildlife, especially dead rodents.
Don’t let dogs or cats hunt prairie dogs or other rodents.
Don’t allow pets to roam freely.
Treat pets for fleas, according to a veterinarian's advice.
Do not feed prairie dogs or other rodents. This attracts them to your property, brings them in close contact with other rodents and increases the risk of disease transmission.
Be aware of rodent populations in your area, and report sudden die-offs or multiple dead animals to your local health department.
Since 1957, Colorado has identified 60 cases of human plague, nine of which were fatal.