Paris Elliott, KUSA
August 21, 2014
BOULDER COUNTY – Signs warning of the bubonic plague have been posted in an open space area near Boulder’s southeastern border.
A health official told the Boulder Daily Camera, at this time she would discourage people from visiting the City of Boulder’s 44-acre Marshall open space property, which is home to a single, large prairie dog colony.
Flea samples were collected in this area, after a neighbor reported prairie dogs had died off of their property, according to a press release issued by the Boulder County Health Department.
The fleas, which tested positive for the plague, are the first organisms to test positive for the plague in Boulder County in the 2014 season, the health department said.
The last instance of the plague in Boulder County was in 2011, when a domesticated cat and a dead squirrel tested positive for the plague.
Heather Swanson, a wildlife ecologist for Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, told the Daily Camera the disease has been active, if not confirmed, every year since 2005.
Another health official told the Daily Camera, “The threat of spreading the disease has not been deemed serious enough to close the open space, but county health officials are urging people to protect themselves.”
According to the health department’s press release, “Plague occurs naturally in Colorado and is an infectious disease spread by fleas to wild rodents and other small mammals, such as, squirrels, rats, prairie dogs, and rabbits. Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague and occurs after a bite from an infected flea. Plague can spread to humans when infected fleas from squirrels, prairie dogs, and other wild rodents bite a human,”
The release went on stating, “Household pets, such as dogs and especially cats, can get plague themselves or carry infected fleas home to their owners. In rare instances, plague can be transmitted to people from cats sick with plague.”
The signs, posted near the City of Boulder’s Marshall open space property, also list precautionary measures to avoid the plague.
· AVOID FLEAS! Protect pets with flea powder, drops, or a new flea collar. Keep pets on a leash and out of wild rodent habitats.
· STAY OUT of areas that wild rodents inhabit. If you enter areas with wild rodents, wear insect repellent and tuck pants cuffs into socks to prevent flea bites.
· AVOID all contact with wild rodents, including squirrels; do not feed or handle them.
· DO NOT TOUCH sick or dead animals.
· PREVENT rodent infestations around your house. Clear plants and materials away from outside walls, reduce access to food items, and set rodent traps.
· TREAT known rodent sites around your home with flea powder or a suitable insecticide.
High fever, extreme fatigue, and painful swollen lymph nodes can be symptoms of the plague.