Cases of Bubonic Plague are infrequent in the US but the number of incidents is higher than normal this year (2015) prompting an alert from the CDC. The alert is aimed at doctors and the public. Doctors follow CDC reports to help them diagnose diseases. The CDC report moves plague onto the Doctor’s lists of possibilities for people living in or visiting the affected area.
Plague cases average 7 per year in the US, but in 2015 so far there have been 12 cases. The most recent case from Utah, a man died from plague this August. Yosemite has had another case of plague since warnings were posted in early August. An 18 year old woman from Georgia is recovering. Prompt diagnosis and treatment is important for good patient outcomes. A Colorado boy died earlier this year, among 4 cases diagnosed from CO. The area of concern for plague is Colorado and all states at or west of that latitude.
In spite of the spike in plague cases, the risk of one person contracting plague is low. Be aware that plague is in the western US rodent population and can be spread by fleas. Avoid contact with dead rodents and fleas. Pets can contract plague from fleas and put pet owners at risk. The CDC suggests these addition precautions in areas where plague is endemic (Colorado and all States West of that latitude.
Persons engaging in outdoor activities in areas where plague is endemic should wear long pants when possible and use insect repellent on clothing and skin. Persons also should avoid direct contact with ill or dead animals and never feed squirrels, chipmunks, or other rodents. In addition, pet owners should regularly use flea control products on their pets and consult a veterinarian if their pet is ill. Rodent habitat can be reduced around the home by removing brush, clutter, and potential rodent food sources such as garbage or pet food.