Health officials confirm case of human plague in Pueblo County

Science Source
Rod-shaped specimens of Yersinia pestis, the bacterial cause of plague, find a happy home here in the foregut of a flea. Fleas can transmit the infection to animals and people, who can get pneumonic plague and transmit the infection through a cough.

Health officials in Pueblo County have confirmed a human case of the bubonic plague.

The Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment said last week that preliminary tests indicated the bacteria’s presence. Now the department is confirming it.

Plague can be treated with antibiotics, but prompt care is necessary to avoid serious complications or even death. It's transmitted by fleas and occurs naturally in wild rodents. Symptoms can include sudden fever or chills, severe headache, nausea, and swollen lymph nodes with pain.

Public health officials are still looking into the specific source in this case, but they suggest people take the following precautions:

  • Eliminate places rodents can hide around the home, including removing brush and rock piles
  • Avoid contact with dead animals
  • Use insect repellent that contains 20-30 percent DEET to prevent flea bites
  • Do not let pets sleep in bed with you
  • Treat dogs and cats for fleas regularly
  • Do not allow pets to stray in area known for rodents, like prairie dog colonies
  • Keep pet food in rodent-proof containers

According to the state health department, there were 10 cases of plague in animals in 2021, the last report available. That count included six domestic animals. State data shows Pueblo County recorded one human case from 2005 to 2021.