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Posted on: May 19, 2022

Domestic Cat Tests Positive for the Plague in San Miguel County

An image of a test tube labaled with the word "plague" and a title stating a cat is infected.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Domestic Cat Tests Positive for the Plague in San Miguel County

Cases common in summer amongst domestic and wild animals, rare cases of transmission to humans

Media Contact: Mike Bordogna, County Manager, 970.728.3844, mikeb@sanmiguelcountyco.gov
Lindsey Mills, Public Information Consultant, lindseym@sanmiguelcountyco.gov 

(May 19, 2022) – San Miguel County, CO --- Last week, a domestic cat exhibited symptoms of the plague in San Miguel County. The cat was tested and treated for suspected plague at a local veterinary hospital. Test results confirmed that the cat was infected with septicemic plague. This is the first instance of the plague in domestic and wild animals in San Miguel County this summer. There have been no human cases to-date.  

The infection occurred in Norwood, Colorado at 7,100 feet of elevation in a household with domesticated indoor and outdoor animals. No fleas were found during treatment and the owners of the cat are monitoring for symptoms amongst all exposed people and animals. Those who handled the cat did not experience high risk exposures though will be on fever watch for seven days from the date of exposure.

San Miguel County Public Health recommends the following to protect pets in areas where plague occurs:

  • Treat cats and dogs for fleas regularly.
  • Keep pet food in rodent-proof containers.
  • Take sick pets to the veterinarian promptly. High fever is a significant symptom of all types of plague in cats and dogs.
  • Do not allow pets to hunt or roam in rodent habitat, such as prairie dog colonies.

Plague has been present in Colorado since at least the 1940s and is most commonly spread in the summer months amongst rodents, such as prairie dogs, squirrels, rats, and rabbits. Domestic animals can be infected with the plague when the infection spills over from rodent populations. It can be transmitted by bites of infected fleas, touching infected animals, or inhaling droplets from the cough of an infected person or animal. While there is no vaccine for plague, it can be treated successfully with antibiotics when caught early.

“As you and your pets enjoy being active outdoors in the summertime, it’s important to be aware of ways to protect against common diseases like the plague,” said Public Health Director Grace Franklin. “Avoid touching sick or dead animals and seek immediate medical care if your pets are sick. When caught early, the plague is highly treatable.”

The symptoms of the plague include, but are not limited to:

  • Swollen or tender lymph nodes
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the abdomen or muscles
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue

If you or someone you know has been in contact with an infected rodent, wild or domestic animal and is experiencing symptoms of the plague, please contact your Primary Care Physician right away. If you do not see a local physician, please reach out directly to San Miguel County Public Health by emailing publichealth@sanmiguelcountyco.gov.

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