The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which discussed a mini-outbreak of plague that occurred here in Colorado last year. Four people fell ill with the pneumonic form of the plague after coming in contact with a sick dog. The dog was euthanized before veterinarians could determine exactly what was going on (a full necropsy was not initially permitted), and it was only after one of the human patients was diagnosed with plague that follow-up testing revealed the cause of everyone’s illnesses.
The word “plague” conjures up pictures of the Middle Ages and epidemics that killed millions of people, but it is simply the name given to the disease that results from infection with Yersinia pestis bacteria. Plague can take three forms:
In animals, plague is usually spread by fleas that feed on infected rodents, like prairie dogs (the most commonly affected species), rabbits, squirrels, mice, and rats. When an animal dies from the plague, the fleas leave the carcass to find another host, thus spreading the disease. Animals can also become sick after coming in contact with blood or tissues from another infected animal. This often happens through hunting or scavenging.
Treatment for plague is straightforward and includes appropriate antibiotic therapy, supportive care, and isolating patients until they are no longer contagious.
The CDC report on the cases in Colorado is notable for several reasons:
Now, plague is not a nationwide problem, but if you live or travel to the Western United States (especially the Four Corners region) you should take precautions, like these put forth by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, to protect yourself and your pets:
Source: PetMD / CDC
A Peaceful Farewell provides compassionate at home pet euthanasia to fellow pet owners in Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Tempe, Ahwatukee, Scottsdale, and most of the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area.
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