BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Boulder County health officials are warning pet owners of the plague. They say a cat tested positive after its owners brought it to the veterinarian.

The cat lives near North Foothills Highway and Plateau Road. The owners say it became sick about two or three weeks after being found with a baby rabbit.

“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.

Last month the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said after a squirrel tested positive for plague in southern Colorado that “the disease can be found in rodents year-round and sometimes spills over into other wildlife species as well as domestic cats and dogs.” Humans can also be infected by the plague. It is treatable with strong antibiotics, but it’s still best to be cautious in order to avoid getting it.

Humans can be infected through bites from infected fleas or by indirect exposure, such as cough, or direct exposure — like a bite — from an infected animal. An infected person or animal can suffer from high fever, chills, headache, nausea and swelling of lymph nodes. The symptoms show up within two to seven days after exposure.

The CDPHE says two human cases of plague were reported in Colorado last year and both patients survived. Both people had exposure to sick animals.

Plague has been present in Colorado for at least 80 years.

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The following actions can be taken to protect you and your pets from plague, according to the CDPHE:

– Don’t directly handle wildlife.
– Keep pets away from dead rodents and rabbits.
– Dogs and cats should be prevented from hunting prairie dogs, other rodents, or rabbits.
– Follow a veterinarian’s advice for treatment of fleas if a pet has a case of them.
– Feeding wildlife, other than birds, is a big no-no. It attracts the animals to your property, bringing them in close contact where disease transmission is more likely.

Health officials urge the public to call their offices if they believe an animal might be infected, or if they witness sudden die-offs of numerous wild animals, which could be a sign that the plague is present and spreading.

Danielle Chavira