FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4)– The family of the teen who died after contracting a rare form of the plague talked about how difficult it’s been after his death. They also wanted to help other families protect themselves against the plague.

Taylor Gaes died June 8 after coming down with what he thought was a bad case of the flu, but tests confirmed it was a rare form of the plague.

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“It’s very tough and it’s… I… I know people who have lost loved ones and stuff and this is by far the toughest… the toughest thing that we’ve ever had to do,” said Taylor’s father Shannon Gaes.

Taylor died the day after his 16th birthday on the way to the hospital.

VIDEO: Watch The Gaes Family’s News Conference

The most common type of plague, bubonic, affects the body’s lymphatic system. But Gaes had contracted septicemic plague, which spreads directly through the bloodstream.

Health officials believe he was bitten by an infected flea while hiking in Northern Colorado.

Poudre High School baseball player Taylor Gaes, baseball player #22. (credit: Poudre baseball team)

Poudre High School baseball player Taylor Gaes, baseball player #22. (credit: Poudre baseball team)

His family is still stunned.

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“We didn’t find out that Taylor had the plague until after the memorial services,” said Gaes.

DR. DAVE HNIDA’S BLOG: What You Need To Know About The Plague

Plague infections aren’t uncommon but deaths are extremely rare. State health officials say there have been 63 human cases of the plague since 1975 and eight deaths, five of them from Septicemic Plague.

That type of plague can be found anywhere in the wild where animals have died off.

“We as a family lived up there for 11 years and had no idea about this,” said Gaes.

Health officials say wearing bug spray and staying away from dead animals is the best way to avoid catching the plague.

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LINK: Taylor Gaes Family Support Fund