WELD COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Health officials in Weld County are reporting new cases of the plague in prairie dogs. The risk of public exposure is low due to the colony being located on private property, but Colorado is seeing increased activity this year.
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The Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge was closed earlier this month while officials sprayed insecticide to kill fleas, which transmit the disease. The Refuge plans to reopen on Saturday.
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Health officials say there are no known human cases at this time, but if you think you may have been exposed, and have symptoms similar to the flu, you should consult a doctor.
“The sudden absence of prairie dogs where there once was an active colony could be a warning sign” states Mark E. Wallace, MD, MPH, Executive Director of Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment. “Residents should protect themselves by keeping fleas off pets and using an insect repellant when working, playing or camping in areas where fleas may be present.”
TIPS TO PREVENT PLAGUE:
Avoid contact with all sick and dead rodents and rabbits. Look for the presence of blow flies or dead animal smell as evidence of animal die-offs. Prairie dog colonies that suddenly are not active may also be due to plague activity in the area.
While doing outdoor activities treat pants, socks, shoe tops, arms and legs with insect repellents.
Keep your pets from roaming and hunting and talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product.
Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian.
DO NOT feed or entice any rodent or rabbit species into your yard, back porch, or patio. If you must dispose of a carcass wear gloves or use a shovel.
Eliminate rodent habitat, such as piles of lumber, broken cement, trash and weeds around your home, outbuildings and cabins.