Plague Investigation Launched in Pueblo County: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe!

PUEBLO COUNTY, Colorado – The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is currently investigating a rare case of plague in Pueblo County following preliminary test results, raising concerns about the bacterial infection’s presence in the region. Plague, a once deadly disease that is now better treated, is caused by the zoonotic bacteria known as Yersinia pestis, which is usually transmitted by fleas and tends to cycle naturally among wild rodents.

Despite its historical significance, human to human transmission of bubonic plague is considered rare, as stated by the World Health Organization. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that on average, seven human plague cases are reported each year in the United States, with most cases concentrated in the Western states, particularly in northern New Mexico and Arizona.

A recent case of human plague was confirmed in rural Oregon, with health officials attributing the infection to a pet cat that exhibited symptoms. Fortunately, the case was promptly identified and treated, posing little risk to the community. Symptoms of bubonic plague can include painful swollen lymph nodes or “buboes,” as well as fever, chills, severe headaches, muscle aches, nausea, and vomiting, typically appearing after an incubation period of one to seven days.

Treatment for plague primarily involves antibiotics, emphasizing the importance of early intervention to avoid serious complications or fatalities. Alicia Solis, program manager at the Pueblo Public Health Department, stresses the critical need for swift and specific antibiotic therapy for plague patients to prevent the disease from rapidly progressing to potential death.

In light of the investigation in Pueblo County, health officials have urged individuals to take necessary precautions to protect themselves and their pets from potential plague transmission through infected fleas, animals, or even respiratory droplets. While there is no widely available vaccine for plague, advancements in sanitation, living conditions, and healthcare practices have significantly mitigated the impact of the disease compared to historical outbreaks.

Plague remains a complex disease that can manifest in rural and semirural areas of the Western United States, particularly in regions where multiple rodent species contribute to the transmission cycle. Enhanced understanding and prevention measures are crucial in addressing the sporadic occurrences of plague both nationally and internationally, with ongoing efforts aimed at reducing the disease’s impact on public health.