Plague infection was recently confirmed in a northeastern Wyoming prairie dog according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH). No human cases have been identified.
The infected prairie dog was discovered in the Converse County area of the Thunder Basin National Grassland. The infection was confirmed by the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory. Local U.S. Forest Service personnel have also described seeing signs of significant prairie dog die-offs.
“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 active state health officer with WDH. “The disease can be transmitted to humans from ill animals and by fleas coming from infected animals.”
According to Harris, human plague infections are “thankfully rare” but the risk of plague exists all around Wyoming. Six human cases have been confirmed with exposures in Wyoming since 1978 with the last one coming in 2008. There are an average of seven human cases across the nation each year.
The WDH offered the following precautions to help prevent infections:
• 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 nd tender lymph glands, extreme exhaustion, headache, chills, coughing, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. People who are ill should seek professional medical help.