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Health Officials Confirm Human Case of Plague in Colorado

Health Officials Confirm Human Case of Plague in Colorado

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment in Denver, Colo., on March 12, 2020. (Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)

Lorenz Duchamps
Lorenz Duchamps

7/6/2024

Updated: 7/10/2024

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Health officials in Colorado are investigating a human case of the plague in a resident who contracted the infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis.
The Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment (PDPHE) confirmed the case in a statement on July 5, saying it is working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to investigate the case.
The public health agency did not disclose details about the individual who contracted the plague—a potentially deadly disease known as the “Black Death” in the Middle Ages.
How the individual became infected, or which specific form of plague the case was, is also unclear.
NTD has contacted the PDPHE via email for further comment but did not hear back before publication.
“We advise all individuals to protect themselves and their pets from plague,” Alicia Solis, program manager of the Office of Communicable Disease and Emergency Preparedness at PDPHE, said in the statement.
“If you develop symptoms of plague, see a health care provider immediately. Plague can be treated successfully with antibiotics, but an infected person must be treated promptly to avoid serious complications or death,” Ms. Solis added.
The case comes 10 months after a resident in Archuleta County in southwest Colorado died of plague in September.

Preventing Plague

While human cases of plague are rare in this day and age, health officials say it’s important for residents to be aware of the symptoms and how to take preventive measures.
The plague is typically transmitted to humans or animals through a bite from an infected flea. It can spread by touching infected animals, or inhaling droplets from the cough of an infected person or animal.
Steps residents can take to avoid infection include getting rid of places rodents can use to hide and breed, avoiding contact with dead animals, treating pets for fleas regularly, and using insect repellent with at least 20 percent of diethyltoluamide, or DEET, to prevent flea bites, the PDPHE said.
In addition, the public health agency also advises Coloradans to keep pet food in rodent-proof containers and not allow pets to sleep in your bed.
Typical plague symptoms include sudden fever and chills, severe headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and a feeling of illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A common symptom of plague is also swollen lymph nodes with pain.

Human Plague in the United States

According to the CDC, just seven human cases of plague are reported in the United States yearly. Most of those cases are reported in northern New Mexico and Arizona.
More than 80 percent of cases in recent decades have been bubonic plague, the most common form that can resolve in three to five days if treated.
If not diagnosed early, however, the disease can progress into more severe versions called septicemic plague (bloodstream infection) and/or pneumonic plague (lung infection)—which is the most serious form of the disease that can be transmitted among humans by airborne droplets of saliva or sputum containing infectious organisms.
The plague was introduced to the United States in 1900 by rat-infested steamships that had sailed from affected areas, mostly in Asia, according to the CDC. The last urban plague epidemic in the United States occurred in Los Angeles, California, from 1924 through 1925.
The disease is infamous for killing tens of millions of Europeans in the 14th century. The Plague of Justinian is believed to have killed upwards of 100 million people throughout the Byzantine Empire and elsewhere in the 6th century.
“Today, improved sanitation practices and rodent control has reduced the threat,” the PDPHE says on its website.
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Lorenz Duchamps is a news writer for NTD, The Epoch Times’ sister media, focusing primarily on the United States, world, and entertainment news.

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