Man and His Dog Infected with Rare, Fatal Form of the Plague Near Denver, Colorado

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

A Colorado man has been infected with the rarest form of plague - pneumonic plague. The Department of Public Health and Environment reported that the unidentified man is the first case of the plague in the state since 2004 and was exposed in Adams County, near Denver. 

The man’s dog died suddenly and was confirmed to also be infected with the disease, Bloomberg News reports.

Colorado Public Health officials are urging people to keep their pets away from all wild-life, especially dead rodents.

There is concern that the plague could spread spread from animals after a large die-off of prairie dogs, when fleas with the bacteria seek new hosts.

Colorado has had 60 cases of all types of plague since 1957, and nine people have died, state officials said.

 “The reaction is leaning toward people who are tired of the protection of prairie dogs on some level,” said Jim Siedlecki, Director of Public Information for Adams County. “Most people look at them as cute little dogs on the side of the road, but in rural Adams County they are looked at as a rodent who damages crops and is potentially plague-ridden.”

Jennifer House, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment confirmed that the infected man is in the hospital and has undergone treatment.  He is no longer infectious, reports the National Post.

Plague occurs when the body is infected by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis.  It is treated with antibiotics.  There is no vaccine for the plague available in the United States, according to Your

Untreated plague is fatal. Antibiotics must be administered within 24 hours of the first symptoms to reduce the risk of death, the CDC advises. Symptoms of the plague include fever, headache and chest pain, along with a pneumonia that develops rapidly causing shortness of breath, chest pain and bloody mucus.

Officials are trying to get the word out that the plague bacterial is in the state and everyone needs to take necessary precautions. Health officials are especially advising people to keep all pets away from wild-life, especially dead rodents.

Sources: National Post, Your Story, Bloomberg