Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Preventing Animal-borne Disease...

Plague Confirmed in Jefferson County Prairie-Dog Population
Jefferson County Public Health received positive test results for plague today from a flea specimen collected from a prairie dog die-off at the Westminster Hills Open Space/Dog Park. The dog park is located at 105th Avenue and Simms Street. The area of concern includes the entire dog park and open space area from Simms Street west to Indiana Street.
Environmental Health Services submitted flea specimens to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for testing on Tuesday, July 14, 2009 and received results back this morning. The area is being closed to the public and posted with plague warnings signs today.
Dr. Jim Dale, DVM, MPH, Director of Environmental Health Services said, “There have been no reported human cases of plague in the area and if precautions are taken the disease is not considered to be a threat to humans.”

Health officials are advising visitors to the Westminster Hills Open Space/Dog Park, and all Jefferson County citizens, to take precautions. JCPH recommends that everyone living in or visiting the area in and around the Westminster Hills Open Space/Dog Park take the necessary precautions, listed below, to protect themselves and their pets from plague.

Plague is an infectious disease caused by Yersinia pestis, a bacterium. Prairie dogs are extremely susceptible to plague. Plague is transmitted via fleas that have bitten plague-infected wild rodents. Cats most commonly contract the disease from flea bites, a rodent scratch/bite, or ingestion of a rodent. Dogs are generally resistant to plague, however they may pick up and carry plague-infected fleas. Humans may be infected with plague through bites from infected fleas, by the cough from an infected animal, or by direct contact (i.e. through a bite) with blood or tissues of infected animals.

Residents are urged to talk with their veterinarian regarding effective flea control products -- always read and follow directions on flea product labels. People can protect themselves and their pets from plague by:

  • rodent-proofing their homes;

  • maintaining litter and trash-free environments;

  • storing food and garbage properly to prevent rodent access;

  • keeping domesticated animals indoors;

  • and when recreating, pet owners should:

  • use insect repellant;

  • keep their pets on leashes;

  • and use flea control products on pets.
If these reasonable precautions are taken, the probability of contracting plague is extremely low.
Symptoms of plague in humans occur within two to seven days after exposure. Infected persons may experience fever, headache, weakness and rapidly developing pneumonia with shortness of breath; chest pain; cough; and sometimes bloody or watery saliva. The pneumonia progresses for two-to-four days and may cause respiratory failure and shock. Plague is treated with antibiotics. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should consult a physician.

The Health Department will continue its plague surveillance of rodent populations in the County. Citizens are requested to report any unusual rodent die-offs to Jefferson County Public Health at 303-271-5700.
For more information, contact the Jefferson County Public Health Environmental Health Services at 303-271-5700 or
For more information on the dog park closing, go to

1 comment:

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