Elmore County, ID. – Plague was confirmed this week in an Elmore County child. The child is recovering after receiving antibiotic treatment.
“Plague is spread to humans through a bite from an infected flea. People can decrease their risk by treating their pets for fleas and avoiding contact with wildlife,” said Sarah Correll, D.V.M., Central District Health Department epidemiologist. “Wear insect repellent, long pants and socks when visiting plague affected areas.”
It is not known whether the child was exposed to plague in Idaho or during a recent trip to Oregon. Plague has historically been found in wildlife in both states. Since 1990, eight human cases were confirmed in Oregon and two were confirmed in Idaho. Plague in humans is rare, but occurs naturally in some rodent populations, including ground squirrels in Idaho. Fleas spread the disease between animals. The disease can also be transmitted to humans by direct contact with infected animals or their fleas. Person-to-person transmission is extremely rare and this case was not a risk to others. Symptoms of plague usually occur within two to six days of exposure and include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache and weakness. In most cases, there is also a painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit, or neck. Plague signs in cats and dogs include fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. There may be a swelling in the lymph nodes under the jaw of pets. Prompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment can greatly reduce the risk of death in people and pets.
The plague was identified in 2015 and 2016 in ground squirrels in both Elmore and south Ada counties in central Idaho. However, this season, no ground squirrel die offs or unusual behavior has been reported by state wildlife officials.
Tips For Protecting Yourself and Your Pets?
– Don’t touch or handle wild rodents or their carcasses.
– Keep your pets from roaming and hunting rodents. This is important – when an animal
dies from the plague, fleas leave the body and look for another host, which could be your
pet, especially if it rolls in a carcass or eats it.
– Talk to your veterinarian about flea control for your pets before venturing out to ground
squirrel areas, and follow the directions on the label. Not all flea products are safe for
dogs and cats.
– If you find a group of dead ground squirrels, you can report it to the Idaho Department of
Fish and Game on its plague website (https://idfg.idaho.gov/plague).
– Don’t feed rodents in campgrounds, picnic areas, or near your home.
– Clean up areas near your home where rodents could live.
– Store hay, wood and compost piles as far as possible away from your home.
– Don’t leave pet food and water where rodents can get to them.