By Natalie O’Neill
(NEW YORK POST) — A Colorado resident was infected with the plague after a squirrel in the state tested positive for the bubonic plague — the first human case in the Centennial State since 2015, according to a report.
The unnamed person, who lives in the southwest section of the state, contracted septicemic plague earlier this summer and has since recovered, officials confirmed to the Denver Post. The person has had contact with sick squirrels.
Septicemic plague is one of the three main forms of plague — the other forms being bubonic and pneumonic. All are caused by bacteria called Yersinia pestis that live in some animals — mostly rodents — and their fleas.
Septicemic is the rarest of the plague varieties and is an infection in the blood which can cause tissues to turn black and die — whereas the bubonic form causes swollen and painful lymph nodes and the pneumonic form is a severe lung infection. The bubonic plague is the most common type.
The disease doesn’t spread easily to other people, and nobody else was infected, health officials said.
However, experts warned of an “increase of reported plague activity” and cautioned people to avoid handling or feeding rodents and other wildlife.
“While we see most plague activity during the summer, the disease can be found in rodents year-round and [it] sometimes spills over into other wildlife species as well as domestic cats and dogs,” Dr Jenifer House, Colorado’s public health veterinarian, said in a statement.
“Plague has been present in Colorado since at least the 1940s, and cases in wild rodents in Colorado are reported most years.”
While the infection can be deadly if left untreated, most people recover when given antibiotic treatment promptly.
Household pets like cats and dogs can also catch plague from infected wildlife, so the health department advised not allowing pets to roam or to hunt rodents, according to the outlet.
Earlier this summer, a squirrel in Jefferson County tested positive for the bubonic plague, which killed more than 50 million people across Africa, Asia and Europe in the Middle Ages and came to be known as “Black Death.”