A squirrel tested positive for bubonic plague in Morrison, Colorado over the weekend. This is the first confirmed case of plague in the county (Jefferson County, Colorado), but not the first case of plague in the state. The report appeared on Saturday, July 11, 2020, when the Jefferson County Colorado Public Health department delivered results to the community with a set of symptoms and warning signs.
Per the Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) department, “risk for getting plague is extremely low as long as precautions are taken.” In this case, that means people should stay away from wild animals, and “eliminate all sources of food, shelter, and access for wild animals around the home.”
JCPH also recommended that citizens in the area should “avoid contact with sick or dead wild animals and rodents.” Citizens with pets were told to consult with their veterinarian about flea and tick control, and to avoid allowing pets to roam freely outside the home “where they may prey on wild animals and bring the disease home with them.”
On the 12th of July, 2020, XinhuaNet published a report from local health authorities in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region about a case of bubonic plague. One case was reported, and “a total of 15 close contacts” were released from quarantine for medical observation on Sunday.”
The plague prevention and control headquarters in Urad Middle Banner, Bayannur City in the region announced that they’d ended Level IV emergency response for the appearance of the plague on Sunday. The one case in the region found in a human patient seems to have been fully contained after discovery on July 5, 2020.
Per the CDC, “Today, modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague. Without prompt treatment, the disease can cause serious illness or death.”
Plague is not unheard of in the United States – in June of the year 2018, Idaho had a single case of bubonic plague in a child. A 2017 report by PBS suggested that between the years 1900 and 2015, the USA had a total of 1,036 cases of human plague, an average of 9 cases per year.
Information posted by the CDC in the USA shows between 11-100 reported Plague cases in the United States between 2013 and 2018. There is currently no substantial alert or warning in the United States for any bubonic plague outbreak.
That one squirrel, though – that squirrel has very, very bad luck. NOTE: Bubonic means “causing or characterized by swollen inflamed lymph nodes in the armpit or groin.” It’s not pretty. Keep your gerbils out of the streets!