The plague has taken the life of an adult in southern Colorado, the second fatality to the disease this year.
According to Christine Nevin-Woods, the medical officer for the Pueblo City-County Health Department, the unidentified adult from Pueblo County likely died of the relatively rare septicemic form of the plague. Officials believe the person likely was infected by fleas from a dead rodent or another animal.
It’s the first such case of someone in Pueblo County contracting the plague since 2004, but the second in the state this year.
Sylvia Proud, the city-county public health director, emphasized protection after the announcement.
“This highlights the importance to protect yourself and your pets from the exposure of fleas that carry the plague.”
According to CNN, a dead prairie dog in the western part of the county is the only animal, thus far, confirmed to have the plague in the immediate area.
— Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) August 6, 2015
Earlier in the year, a teenager in Larimer County died from the plague, which was the year’s first such case in Colorado. In 2014, there were eight reported cases, up significantly from previous years, according to the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found, in a report released April 30, that a pit bull was the source of the outbreak that sickened four people last year.
Of note in that report was the suggestion that there might have been a human-to-human transmission, which has not occurred in the United States since 1924.
The dog-to-human transmission apparently is quite rare. According to Colorado’s Tri-County Health Department, the case said they could only find one other case of dog-to-human transmission in records, a 2009 case in China.
— Sky News (@SkyNews) August 6, 2015
According to the CDC, only about seven people are infected by the plague each year, with over 80 percent from the bubonic form of the disease, in which the infection spreads through the body’s tissue into the lymphatic system, producing swelling.
The Associated Press reports that in the septicemic form of the plague, bacteria directly enters the blood stream and, without the swelling, its symptoms of fever, chills and abdominal pain, can resemble the flu.
The plague can be life-threatening, but with antibiotics and antimicrobials, it is rarely deadly, a departure from the Middle Ages when millions died.
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]