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Human Plague Case Confirmed, Health Officials Urge Prompt Treatment

The Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment (PDPHE) in Colorado has confirmed a human case of bubonic plague, Fox News reported.

A case of plague has been confirmed in Pueblo County, Colorado, PDPHE health officials announced. Fox News reportPDPHE, in coordination with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, is currently investigating this incident. Details of the individual infected with the plague have not been released, but health officials urge the public to take precautions to protect themselves and their pets from potentially contracting this serious bacterial infection.

According to the media, the bacterium that causes the plague, Yersinia pestis, was likely brought to North America by rats on ships from South Asia around 1900. The disease has since become endemic among ground squirrels and rodents in the rural southwestern United States, said Dr. Timothy Brewer, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the plague can affect people of any age, with about half of cases occurring in people between the ages of 12 and 45.

Globally, the World Health Organization reports between 1,000 and 2,000 cases of plague each year, with the U.S. averaging about seven cases per year. Untreated, plague can be fatal in 30 to 60 percent of cases, but the use of antibiotics reduces the fatality rate to less than 5 percent, Fox News reported.

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Symptoms of plague include severe headache, fever, chills, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, and swollen lymph nodes. Transmission occurs through droplets from an infected person, but in the United States, it is more common through bites from infected fleas or direct contact with infected animals or their bodily fluids. Certified Infection Control Specialist Erica Suski emphasized that the first line of prevention is to minimize contact with rodents and fleas.

“Pets can become infected if they encounter infected fleas or rats, and can then transmit the disease to their owners if they are bitten or infected with the disease,” she told Fox News Digital. “Skinning animals also poses risks, as the bacteria can be spread through infected bodily fluids.” (Related article: “Serious problem”: Experts say global recession epidemic could affect the U.S. as well)

The most effective prevention is to avoid rats and fleas, including dead rats, Suski said, Fox News reported. Suski stressed the importance of rodent-proofing your home by sealing their entry points and eliminating their hiding places. He also suggested keeping pets indoors whenever possible. For pets that go outside, Suski recommended keeping them on a leash.

“If your pet has fleas, treat them immediately and take them to the vet if they become ill,” Suski advised, according to Fox News.

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