Plague Death in Archuleta County Prompts Health Officials to Issue Warning

Archuleta County, Colorado – In a solemn announcement on Monday, health officials revealed the tragic death of a resident due to the plague. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is investigating a death case in collaboration with San Juan Basin Public Health. The cause of death has been confirmed by laboratory testing.

“If you think you have symptoms consistent with plague, seek health care immediately and let them know you may have been exposed.”

Tiffany Switzer, interim executive director of SJBPH, emphasized the rarity of this disease while urging awareness of its potential exposure and associated symptoms.

Bacteria cause the plague and can be transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas. And also through direct contact with infected animals, as noted in a Monday news release from San Juan Basin Public Health.

What is plague?

Plague is a serious infectious disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. It is transmitted between animals through fleas, and humans can infected through the bite of an infected flea, contact with infected bodily fluids or tissues, or inhalation of droplets from an infected person.

There are three main types of plague:

  • Bubonic plague

This is the most common form of plague, and it affects the lymph nodes. Symptoms include fever, headache, chills, and swollen, tender lymph nodes (called buboes).

  • Septicemic plague

This form of plague occurs when the bacteria enter the bloodstream. Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, weakness, and shock.

  • Pneumonic plague

This form of plague affects the lungs and is the most contagious form of the disease. Symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain.

If antibiotics do not promptly treat it, plague can become a fatal disease. However, with early diagnosis and treatment, most people recover.

Plague is most common in rural areas of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. However, it can occur anywhere in the world. In the United States, a few cases of plague are reported each year, primarily in the western states.

How can plague infect?

This bacterial disease is frequently detected in various wildlife species, including rock squirrels, ground squirrels, and chipmunks. Notably, residents are cautioned against eradicating or harming prairie dogs on their property. But, doing so can elevate the risk of exposure to fleas carrying the plague.

While the risk of contracting animal borne diseases is typically higher during the summer, it remains a year-round concern. Residents are advised to take several precautions. It includes using insect repellent when outdoors, ensuring pets are current on vaccinations and kept away from wildlife, refraining from sharing beds with pets, avoiding the feeding or handling of wild animals, and promptly addressing rodent infestations.

It’s important to note that plague is treatable, with symptoms including the sudden onset of high fever and/or swollen lymph nodes, as detailed in the news release.

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