The first plague case was identified in Boulder County this season after a cat tested positive for the disease June 2.
The cat’s owner had the cat examined by a veterinarian after it became ill two to three weeks after it was found with a baby rabbit, according to a news release from Boulder County Public Health.
The cat lived near North Foothills Highway and Plateau Road in Boulder County.
Boulder County Parks and Open Space was notified of the positive case, and warning signs will be posted in this neighborhood with precautionary measures to avoid the plague.
“Because plague is most commonly transmitted by fleas, taking steps to avoid flea exposures will help prevent spread of the disease,” said Carol McInnes, Boulder County Public Health environmental health specialist, in the release.
BCPH Spokesperson 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 testing after that time tested negative up until the recent positive test result.
In May, a squirrel tested positive for the plague in El Paso County, according to a release from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Household pets, such as dogs and especially cats can either get the plague or carry infected fleas home to their owners, the release states. In rare instances, the plague can be transmitted to people from cats sick with the plague.
“Keeping cats indoors is the best way to protect them from getting plague,” said McInnes. “Pet owners should also discuss with their veterinarians the best way to protect pets from fleas.”
The plague occurs naturally in Colorado, and is an infectious disease spread by fleas to wild rodents and other small mammals such as prairie dogs and rabbits. Bubonic plague is the most common form of 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 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 health care provider or veterinarian immediately. The plague can be treated with antibiotics, but this treatment is most successful when the disease can be diagnosed quickly.
BCPH recommends residents adhere to the following recommendations:
- Avoid fleas and protect pets with flea treatment recommended by a veterinarian and keep pets on a leash and out of wildlife habitats.
- Stay out of areas that wild rodents and rabbits inhabit. If you enter areas with rodents or rabbits, wear insect repellent containing DEET and tuck pants 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 infestations around your house: clear plants and materials away from outside walls, reduce access to food items and set traps.
- Treat burrows on your property if you find dead rabbits or rodents with an insecticide approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for use on fleas and follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the label.