By Jesse Sarles

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is investigating plague activity, including a deadly case. The CDPHE lab has confirmed reports of plague in animals and fleas from six different counties. That includes La Plata County, where a 10-year-old died from causes associated with the plague.

Lab tests confirm the presence of plague in fleas from La Plata County and most human cases are acquired directly from fleas. If detected early in infection, plague is treatable in both people and pets.

Symptoms include the sudden onset of high fever and/or swollen lymph nodes.

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. The most recent fatal human case confirmed in Colorado was in 2015.

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

– Avoid fleas. Protect pets with a veterinary approved flea treatment and keep them on a leash and out of wild rodent habitats.
– Stay out of areas where wild rodents live. If you enter areas inhabited by wild rodents, wear insect repellent and tuck your pant cuffs into your socks to prevent flea bites.
– Avoid all contact with wild rodents, including squirrels. Do not feed or handle them.
– Do not touch sick or dead animals.
– Prevent rodent infestations around your house by clearing plants and materials away from outside walls, reducing access to food items, and setting traps.
– Consult with a professional pest control company to treat the area around your home for fleas.
– Contact a veterinarian if your pet becomes ill with a high fever and/or an abscess (i.e. open sore) or swollen lymph nodes. Pets with plague can transmit the illness to humans.
– Children should be aware of these precautions and know to tell an adult if they have had contact with a wild animal or were bitten by fleas.

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.

Jesse Sarles