MORRISON, Colo. (WHDH) — A squirrel that was found in Morrison, Colorado on Saturday tested positive for the bubonic plague, making it the first case of the plague in the United States, officials announced.

Jefferson County Public Health made the announcement Sunday, adding that humans and household pets can catch the infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis if they do not take the proper precautions.

Humans may be infected with the bubonic plague through bites from infected fleas, by the cough from an infected animal or by direct contact with blood or tissues of infected animals, Jefferson County Public Health warned.

Cats are highly susceptible to the plague and may die if not treated promptly with antibiotics. They can contract the disease from flea bites, a rodent scratch/bite or ingestion of a rodent.

Dogs are not as susceptible to the plague; however, they could pickup and carry plague-infected rodent fleas.

Symptoms occur within two to seven days after exposure and may include sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, nausea and extreme pain and swelling of lymph nodes.

The plague can be treated with antibiotics when diagnosed early.

Anyone with symptoms should consult a physician.

Jefferson County Public Health recommends people take the following precautions to protect themselves and their pets from the bubonic plague:

  • 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.
  • 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 a veterinarian about flea and tick control for pets.
  • Keep pets from roaming freely outside the home where they may prey on wild animals and bring the disease home with them.

 

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