Rarely is the Bubonic plague thought about in today's society. However, Boulder County, Colorado, is scrambling to prevent an outbreak of the potentially lethal infliction.
Near the South Eastern border of Boulder, Colorado, signs can be seen warning visitors to stay away from the area. A colony of prairie dogs in the area are causing quite a stir after it was found that their fleas are harboring the Bubonic plague. The investigation began after a neighbor reported a rash of dead prairie dogs, and was concerned as to why they were dying off. Samples were taken from the area, including a collection of fleas. It was later determined that the fleas were harboring the plague.
News of the Bubonic plague is not surprising in Colorado, as it has shown up at least once a year since 2005. A health official from Colorado stated the health threat is low, although protecting one's self is always advised.
"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."
A press release by the Boulder County Health Department shared the sentiment that a mass panic is not necessary.
"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,"
Signs posted around the city warn visitors how to avoid coming into contact with the Bubonic 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.
The posted signs reinforce that the Bubonic plague is no longer a serious threat to the population, assuming it is treated properly. According to the health department, seeking immediate care is advised.
"Anyone observing these symptoms in a person or pet should contact their health care provider or veterinarian immediately. Plague can be treated with antibiotics, but the treatment is most successful when the disease can be diagnosed quickly."
[Photo Courtesy: Locker Dome]