WYOMING – State health officials have confirmed a case of plague in northeastern Wyoming. The infection was found in a prairie dog in Converse County, in the Thunder Basin National Grassland area. The infection was confirmed by the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory. Local Forest Service personnel have also described seeing signs of significant prairie dog die-offs.
No human cases have been reported so far this year. Since 1978, six people have been infected with plague in Wyoming. The most recent case was in 2008, when a Boy Scout became ill after visiting Yellowstone National Park and parts of Teton County. There are an average of seven human cases across the nation each year.
Four mountain lions in the Greater Yellowstone Area also tested positive for the disease between 2005 and 2008, according to researchers at University of Wyoming. Last spring, three cats in Cody tested positive for plague.
“Plague is a serious bacterial infection that can be deadly for people and for animals, including pets, if not treated promptly with antibiotics,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, state epidemiologist and acting state health officer with Wyoming Department of Health (WDH). “The disease can be transmitted to humans from ill animals and by fleas coming from infected animals.”
Recommended precautions to help prevent plague infections include:
- Avoid unnecessary exposure to rodents
- Avoid contact with rodent carcasses
- Avoid areas with unexplained rodent die-offs
- Use insect repellent on boots and pants when in areas that might have fleas
- Use flea control products for pets, and properly dispose of rodents pets may bring home
Plague symptoms in people can include fever, swollen and tender lymph glands, extreme exhaustion, headache, chills, coughing, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. People who are ill should seek professional medical help.
Plague symptoms in animals can include enlarged lymph glands; swelling in the neck, face or around the ears; fever; chills; lack of energy; coughing; vomiting; diarrhea and dehydration. Ill animals should be taken to a veterinarian.