Pet Cat in Colorado Tests Positive for Bubonic Plague

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A Colorado cat tested positive for bubonic plague last month, according to health officials.

On Monday, Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) announced in a press release that a domestic cat in Evergreen, Colorado, tested positive on Oct. 29, becoming the first cat with a case of plague for the county this year.

JCPH said the cat likely became infected after coming across a rat near Elk Meadows Open Space Park.

RELATED: Some Areas of Lake Tahoe Closed After Chipmunks Test Positive for Plague

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, plague is a disease caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis, which can infect humans and other mammals through flea bites. Animals such as prairie dogs, squirrels, chipmunks, and other rodents often carry the disease.

JCPH said in its release that cats are more susceptible to plague and can face death if the disease is not treated promptly.

"While plague is a serious disease, and cases of animal-borne diseases in household pets are 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, JCPH Director of Environmental Health Services, in a statement. "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."

Those with pets are encouraged not to let them roam freely in areas where they can prey on wild animals and eliminate any items that can attract wild animals to the home.

"The bottom line is people — and their pets — should avoid contact with any species of wild rodent, especially ones that are sick, dying, or already dead," Rada added in the release. "We know that pets can be unpredictable, but there are things pet owners can do to keep their four-legged family members safe, especially when they live close to rodent populations such as prairie dog colonies."

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According to the CDC, people can get plague through the bites of infected fleas or by touching or skinning infected animals. Though the disease is rare, it is treatable through antibiotics if caught early.

Health officials say that symptoms include fever, headache, chills, nausea, weakness, and swollen or painful lymph nodes. People should speak with a doctor as soon as possible if they are experiencing any symptoms.

This summer, a 10-year-old girl died in La Plata, Colorado, from the plague — the state's first death from the disease in six years.

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