Written by Ashton Snyder on
 July 8, 2024

Human Plague Case Confirmed in Colorado

According to Fox News, a human case of the plague has been confirmed in Pueblo County, Colorado, and health officials are providing tips to prevent its spread.

The Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment (PDPHE) is working with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to investigate the case. The identity of the individual who contracted the plague has not been disclosed.

Understanding the Bubonic Plague

The bubonic plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. This bacterium is believed to have been brought to North America around 1900 by rats on ships from South Asia. Yersinia pestis has since become endemic in ground squirrels and other rodents in the rural Southwestern United States. About half of the plague cases occur in individuals between 12 and 45.

Globally, between 1,000 and 2,000 cases of plague are reported to the World Health Organization annually, with an average of seven cases yearly in the United States.

If untreated, the plague has a fatality rate of 30% to 60%. However, with prompt antibiotic treatment, the fatality rate drops below 5%. Symptoms of the plague include severe headache, fever and chills, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, and swollen lymph nodes.

The disease can spread through droplets from an infected person, pets, rodents, and fleas, either through bites or contact with infected body fluids.

Public Health Advisory and Precautions

Infected dust from dried rodent urine or feces can also spread the infection. Prevention measures include avoiding contact with rodents and fleas, keeping pets indoors, treating flea infestations, and using insect repellents.

"We advise all individuals to protect themselves and their pets from plague," said Alicia Solis, program manager of the Office of Communicable Disease and Emergency Preparedness at PDPHE.

Timothy Brewer, M.D., noted, "Since its introduction 120 years ago, it has become endemic in ground squirrels and rodents in the rural Southwestern U.S."

Erica Susky, a certified infection control practitioner, emphasized:

The more common risk of exposure in the U.S. is from pets, rodents and fleas. Pets can sometimes be infected when encountering an infected flea or rodent and may pass it along to their pet owners from a bite or if the pet is ill. Skinned animals are also a risk, as the bacterium can spread via infected body fluids.

Protecting Pets and Minimizing Risks

Susky recommended treating pets promptly if they have a flea infestation and seeking veterinary treatment if a pet becomes ill. She also advised ensuring homes are rodent-proof by eliminating entry points and hiding places.

Using repellent to avoid insect bites when spending time outdoors is crucial, Susky noted, as bites from infected fleas are a primary means of transmission. "Plague can be treated successfully with antibiotics, but an infected person must be treated promptly to avoid serious complications or death," Solis stated.


A human case of the plague has been confirmed in Pueblo County, Colorado, with health officials investigating the situation. Yersinia pestis, the bacterium causing the plague, has been endemic in the rural Southwestern U.S. since its introduction around 1900. Symptoms of the plague are severe but treatable with prompt antibiotics. Preventative measures include avoiding contact with rodents and fleas, keeping pets indoors, and using repellents. Public health officials emphasize the importance of protecting humans and pets from this potentially deadly disease.

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