Colorado child dies of plague

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San Juan Basin Public Health and CDPHE are still investigating the case and stress the importance of controlling wildlife and fleas around your home.

LA PLATA COUNTY, Colo. — A 10-year-old Colorado resident died of plague in La Plata County, San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) said Friday. 

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and SJBPH said they are investigating the case and will provide more information as it becomes available.

>> The video above is from 2019 about when an UCHealth expert talked about plague after an outbreak in prairie dogs in Commerce City 

“We are so sad for the loss of this young Coloradan and our deepest condolences go to the family,” said Dr. Jennifer House of CDPHE. “Public Health is doing an epidemiological investigation and wants Coloradans to know that while this disease is very rare, it does occur sometimes, and to seek medical care if you have symptoms.”

The release states that plague is caused by bacteria that can be transmitted to humans by the bites of infected fleas or by direct contact with infected animals. SJBPH said for residents to remember that the risk of contracting certain animal-borne diseases, while present year-round, increases during the summer when humans and animals are frequently in close contact.

“On behalf of all of us at SJBPH, our hearts go out to the family while we support the state’s thorough investigation to keep residents safe,” said Liane Jollon, Executive Director of SJBPH. 

Most human plague cases are acquired directly from fleas; SJBPH said the importance of controlling the presence of wildlife and fleas around homes through the following measures:

  • Wear repellant and appropriate clothing when heading outdoors. 
  • Keep pets up to date on vaccinations, away from wildlife, and protected from fleas (with veterinary-approved topical medications, flea collars or other methods of prevention).
  • Avoid sleeping alongside your pets. 
  • Do not feed or handle wild animals, especially those that appear sick. 
  • Do not handle dead animals or animal waste. 
  • 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.  

Plague is frequently detected in rock squirrels, prairie dogs, wood rats and other species of ground squirrels and chipmunks. SJBPH investigates prairie dog population die-offs for the presence of plague. If an active colony of prairie dogs suddenly disappears, please report this to SJBPH.

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