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Public Health - News

Posted on: October 19, 2023

Cat with Plague Found in Jefferson County

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Jefferson County, Colo. – On Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023, a cat located in the area of Meyer Ranch Park located at S. Turkey Creek Road and Highway 285 tested positive for plague. The cat is the first case of plague in Jefferson County this year. The cat was taken to the veterinarian with fever and swollen lymph nodes, but no respiratory symptoms, and has been started on antibiotics. Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis and can be contracted by humans and household animals if proper precautions are not taken.

Humans may be infected with plague through bites from infected fleas, by the cough from an infected animal or by direct contact (e.g., through a bite) with blood or tissues of infected animals. Symptoms of plague may include sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, nausea and extreme pain and swelling of lymph nodes, occurring within two to seven days after exposure. Plague can be effectively treated with antibiotics when diagnosed early. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should consult a physician.

Cats can contract plague from flea bites, a rodent scratch/bite or ingestion of a rodent. Dogs are not as susceptible to plague; however, they may pick up and carry plague-infected rodent fleas. Familiarize yourself with the full list of plague symptoms in cats and dogs [external link], and if you’re concerned your pet may have been exposed to plague, consult your veterinarian. 

All pet owners who live close to wild animal populations, such as prairie dog colonies or other known wildlife habitats, should consult their veterinarian about flea control for their pets to help prevent the transfer of fleas to humans.

“While plague is a serious disease, and cases of animal-borne disease in household pets is never something we like to see, it is normal and expected for some animals to contract plague in Jefferson County each year,” said Jim Rada, Director of Environmental Health Services at JCPH. “The good news is that modern antibiotics are effective against plague, and as long as it is treated promptly, severe complications, illness or death can be avoided.”

Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) recommends the following precautions be taken to protect yourself and your pets from plague. Risk for getting plague is extremely low as long as precautions are taken:

  • Eliminate all sources of food, shelter and access for wild animals around the home.
  • Do not feed wild animals.
  • Maintain a litter and trash-free yard to reduce wild animal habitats.
  • People and pets should avoid contact with sick or dead wild animals and rodents.
  • Use precaution when handling sick pets. Have sick pets examined by a veterinarian.
  • Consult with your veterinarian about flea and tick control for your pets.
  • Keep pets from roaming freely outside the home where they may prey on wild animals and bring the disease home with them.
    • Do not let dogs off leash in the wild or in parks and open spaces. 
    • Whenever possible, keep cats indoors and do not let them free-roam the neighborhood.

 To learn more about animal-borne diseases in Jefferson County, including bubonic plague, please visit our website or CDC’s website [external link].

 

About Jefferson County Public Health 

Public health is what we do collectively to prevent illness and premature death and promote health in our neighborhoods and communities. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) is a nationally accredited health department committed to promoting and protecting health across the lifespan for all people through prevention, education and partnerships. To learn more about JCPH visit https://www.jeffco.us/public-health. You can also follow JCPH on Twitter @JeffcoPH [external link], Instagram @JeffcoPH [external link] and Facebook @jeffcopublichealth [external link].

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