Squirrel confirmed positive for Bubonic plague

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Illinois Small Game Season begins for hunters in just a few weeks and with new warnings for hunters after a squirrel in Colorado has tested positive for the bubonic plague.

“On Saturday, July 11, 2020, a squirrel found in the Town of Morrison tested positive for bubonic plague. The squirrel is the first case of plague in the county. Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, and can be contracted by humans and household animals if proper precautions are not taken.” The Jefferson County Health Department (JCHD) officials, in Colorado, said in a statement Sunday.

The bubonic plague first resurfaced in China last month after a herdsman in the region of Inner Mongolia was diagnosed with the disease. JCHD officials warned the bubonic plague can be contracted by humans and household animals if “proper precautions” aren’t taken.

“Humans may be infected with plague through bites from infected fleas, by the cough from an infected animal or by direct contact (e.g., through a bite) with blood or tissues of infected animals. Cats are highly susceptible to plague and may die if not treated promptly with antibiotics. Cats can contract plague from flea bites, a rodent scratch/bite or ingestion of a rodent. Dogs are not as susceptible to plague; however, they may pick up and carry plague-infected rodent fleas. Pet owners who suspect their pets are ill should consult a veterinarian. All pet owners who live close to wild animal populations, such as prairie dog colonies or other known wildlife habitats, should consult their veterinarian about flea control for their pets to help prevent the transfer of fleas to humans.” JCHD officials said.

The JCHD issued a list of precautionary measures to residents, including eliminating all sources of food and shelter for wild animals around your home, not feeding wild animals, maintain litter and trash free yards, and keep pets from contacting sick or dead animals and rodents.

Symptoms of bubonic plague include high fever, chills, headache, nausea, extreme pain, and swelling of lymph nodes.  The squirrel is the first case of the plague in the country. 

Squirrel Season begins in Illinois on August 1st.

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