Colorado squirrel tests positive for Bubonic plague

    There is no vaccine for the plague, and on average, the U.S. has seven human cases per year.

    (Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)

    Following news that a herdsman in China tested positive for the bubonic plague comes word that a squirrel in Colorado has contracted the disease. 

    Officials from the town of Morrison in Jefferson County have confirmed that the squirrel is the first of such case this year, per ABC News. 

    The bubonic 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,” officials from Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) said in a statement. 

    Read More: Bubonic plague cases confirmed in China

    The Yersinia pestis bacterium is a germ spread by fleas that infect rodents. Fortunately, the bubonic plague is treatable with antibiotics, the New York Times says.

    “Bubonic plague is caused by a bacterium and so, unlike Covid-19, is readily treated with antibiotics, “ Dr. Matthew Dryden, consultant microbiologist at the University of Southampton, told BBC News. “So although this might appear alarming, being another major infectious disease emerging from the East, it appears to be a single suspected case which can be readily treated.”

    Officials in Jefferson County have warned that humans can become infected with the bubonic plague through bites from infected fleas, rodents and animals. 

    According to the JCPH, “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.”

    Our beloved pets are also susceptible.

    Read More: Russell Westbrook tests positive for COVID-19

    Cats are said to be more vulnerable for catching the plague from fleas and rodents compared to dogs.

    “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,” JCPH said.

    According to the CDC, there is no vaccine for the plague, and there are only seven human plague cases in the U.S, on average, per year. The World Health Organization (WHO) says the mortality rate is estimated to be between 8-10%.

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