The Coconino County Public Health Services District (CCPHSD) has issued a statement regarding fleas that have tested positive for plague. According to the statement, plague is endemic to the Coconino County area, meaning that it is regularly found there. The specific sites are being treated along with additional testing of surrounding areas and monitoring. Due to the close geographic proximity, it is important to understand how the disease is likely to spread and take precautions.
The disease can be carried by fleas, rodents, rabbits and other animals that feed on them. It can be contracted by humans through interaction with these animals or through pets that have come into contact with infected animals. It is important to keep pets contained or on a leash to avoid exposure.
The symptoms of plague include fever, chills, headache, weakness, muscle pain, and swollen lymph glands in the groin, armpits or limbs. The symptoms usually appear within two to six days after exposure. The most common form is bubonic plague which affects the lymph system and is typically transmitted through flea bites. The other form of plague is pneumonic, which is contracted through breathing infected droplets. Both of these forms can become Septicemic, meaning that it has spread throughout the bloodstream. Plague is treatable with prompt diagnosis and appropriate care but can quickly become deadly if left untreated.
There is no evidence that this outbreak has spread to our area but anyone who may be planning to visit the Flagstaff area should take the appropriate precautions and be aware of the symptoms. According to the World Health Organization fact sheet, plague is found on every continent. The CCPHSD recommends the following actions to anyone who may live, work or engage in outdoor recreation in the affected area or more generally.
- Don’t handle wild animals, especially if they are dead or appear sick.
- Be sure that your pets are regularly treated for fleas, especially after visiting an infected area.
- Don’t disturb rodent burrows.
- Ensure that camping spots are not close to rodent burrows.
- Use insect repellant if contact with fleas is likely.
- Hunters should use rubber gloves when processing game.
- Cats are especially susceptible to plague. Extra efforts to provide veterinary care, especially for outdoor cats, is highly recommended.
- Be aware of the symptoms and always seek medical care if you notice any of the symptoms. Early treatment is crucial and effective.
More information is available at https://www.cdc.gov/plague/.
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