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Case of human plague confirmed in Colorado
Case of human plague confirmed in Colorado

Case of human plague confirmed in Colorado

On Tuesday, health officials in Colorado confirmed a case of the plague in humans in the state.

The infection, which occurred in Pueblo County in the south of the state, was first reported on Friday based on preliminary test results, while the source of the infection is still being determined.

“Plague can be successfully treated with antibiotics, but an infected person must receive prompt treatment to avoid serious complications or death,” said Alicia Solis, program manager of the Office of Communicable Diseases and Emergency Preparedness in the Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment, in a press release about the case.

“We advise everyone to protect themselves and their pets from the plague,” she added.

This is not the first case of plague in Colorado: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 67 cases were reported in the state between 1970 and 2022. Across the United States, an average of seven human cases of plague are reported each year.

According to the World Health Organization, 3,248 cases of plague in humans were reported worldwide between 2010 and 2015.

Unfortunately, a vaccine against the plague is no longer available in the United States, notes the CDC. “New vaccines against the plague are under development, but are not expected to be commercially available in the near future.”

Caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, plague is an infectious disease usually transmitted by fleas. Once known as the Black Death, the plague killed millions of people in Europe during the Middle Ages, but now circulates naturally among wild rodents and rarely infects humans.

Anyone who develops symptoms of plague should see their doctor immediately, recommends the CDC. Typical symptoms include sudden fever and chills, severe headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and often swollen lymph nodes with pain.

What can people do to avoid infection?

One option, according to Colorado health officials, is to eliminate places where wild rodents can live near people, such as brush, rock piles, trash and wood piles around homes, garages, sheds and recreational areas.

Taking precautions with pets can also reduce the risk of transmission. Health officials recommend treating dogs and cats for fleas, storing pet food in rodent-proof containers, and not letting pets roam in rodent areas or sleep in your bed.

More information:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information about the plague.

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