Preliminary tests of an ill cat from Clark County have come back positive for plague, according to a news release from Eastern Idaho Public Health. The cat has recovered and is currently doing well.
Because of the warmer summer weather, Eastern Idaho Public Health is requesting people be cautious as they spend more time outside.
Plague is a bacterial disease carried by rodents and spread through the bites of infected fleas or through direct contact with infected animals. If it is not treated promptly, the disease can cause serious illness to people and pets.
In Idaho, the most common animals that carry plague are rodents such as ground squirrels, rats, voles and mice. However, tree squirrels are not known to carry the disease.
People can be best protected from this disease by not touching wild rodents, their fleas or rodent carcasses.
“Symptoms of plague in humans include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache and weakness,” according to the news release. “In most cases, there is a painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck areas.”
Among cats and dogs, symptoms include a loss of appetite, lethargy, fever and possible swelling of the lymph node beneath their jaw.
“With prompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment, the fatality rate in people and pets can be greatly reduced,” according to the news release.
Since 1940, there have been five reported cases of plague among humans, and the last two reports were in 1991 and 1992, with both patients recovering.
Should anyone come across a group of five or more dead ground squirrels, yellow-bellied marmots, voles, cottontail rabbits or jackrabbits, he or she should report the location of the animals to Idaho Fish and Game at idfg.idaho.gov/plague. They should not touch the animals.
“All reports are reviewed and appropriately handled, however, not all people submitting reports will be contacted for follow-up,” according to the news release.