Plague Confirmed in Wyoming Prairie Dog
Written by Andrew-Rossi on July 17, 2017
Although many consider the plague to be an ancient disease that was eradicated centuries ago, that is not the case. In fact, plague infection was recently confirmed in a northeastern Wyoming prairie dog.
According to the Wyoming Department of Health, the infected prairie dog was discovered in the Converse County area of the Thunder Basin National Grassland and was confirmed by the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory. Local U.S. Forest Service personnel have also described seeing signs of significant prairie dog die-offs.
Dr. Alexia Harrist, state epidemiologist and acting state health officer with the Department of Health, describes the plague as a serious bacterial infection that can be deadly for people and for animals, including pets, if not treated promptly with antibiotics. Although no human cases have been identified, the disease can be transmitted to humans from ill animals and by fleas coming from infected animals.
Harrist said six human cases of plague have been confirmed with exposures in Wyoming since 1978; the last one was reported in 2008. There are an average of seven human cases across the nation each year.
Health Department officials recommend avoiding unnecessary exposure to rodents, avoiding contact with rodent carcasses, using insect repellent on boots and pants when in areas that might have fleas, and using flea control products for pets, and properly dispose of rodents pets may bring home.
Plague symptoms in people can include fever, swollen and tender lymph glands, extreme exhaustion, headache, chills, coughing, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. People who are ill should seek professional medical help.
Plague symptoms in animals can include enlarged lymph glands; swelling in the neck, face or around the ears; fever; chills; lack of energy; coughing; vomiting; diarrhea and dehydration. Ill animals should be taken to a veterinarian.