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Squirrel tests positive for bubonic plague in Colorado

The plague occurs naturally in Colorado. The squirrel tested positive Saturday for bubonic plague in what Jeffco Public Health said was the county's first case.
Credit: sallynewcomb

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — A squirrel found in the Town of Morrison tested positive for the bubonic plague on Saturday, according to Jefferson County Public Health.

The case is the county's first, according to a Jeffco Public Health news release. The health department did not say where in Morrison the animal was found. 

Plague activity was also detected in Broomfield last week in Great Western Reservoir Open Space. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) has said there has been an increase in plague activity in Colorado.

Unlike COVID-19, the plague occurs naturally in Colorado and is a bacterial disease. Humans can become infected through bites from infected fleas or by the cough of or direct contact – such as a bite – from an infected animal.

Cats are highly susceptible to plague. Dogs are not, though they can pick up and carry plague-infected fleas, the health department said, adding that pet owners who suspect their pet might be infected should consult a veterinarian.

Plague can be treated with antibiotics with diagnosed early, the release says. The risk of contracting it low if precautions are taken:

  • Eliminate sources of food, shelter and access for wild animals around the home.
  • Don't feed wild animals.
  • Reduce litter and trash in your yard.
  • Avoid contact with sick or dead animals.
  • Use precaution when handling sick pets.
  • Use flea and tick control for your pets.
  • Keep pets from roaming freely outside the home. 

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