Published: Thu, June 14, 2018
Medicine | By Douglas Stevenson

Idaho child diagnosed with plague; only fifth human case in state history

Idaho child diagnosed with plague; only fifth human case in state history

An Elmore County child is the first with a confirmed human case of plague in the state since 1992.

A child in Idaho is recovering after being treated for the bubonic plague this week.

"People can decrease their risk by treating their pets for fleas and avoiding contact with wildlife", Sarah Correll, a Central District Health Department epidemiologist, said in a statement.

A state health official told the Idaho Statesman newspaper that the public is advised to "wear insect repellant, long trousers and socks when visiting plague affected areas".

The case serves as a reminder to recreationists in southern Idaho that plague is unsafe to people and pets, but with proper awareness, precautions, and prompt treatment when needed, plague should not discourage you from enjoying the Idaho outdoors.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the bacteria that causes plague can be found in rodents and fleas. However, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, there was a plague outbreak south of Boise from 2015 through 2016 that affected animals. Tree squirrels in Idaho are not known to carry plague.

In the USA, people can contract the plague when disposing of squirrels or mice that died from the infection or traveled to an area where infected animals live.

Keep your pets from roaming and hunting rodents.

Talk to your veterinarian about flea control for your pets before venturing out to ground squirrel areas, and follow the directions on the label. No one should feed rodents in parks and picnic or campground areas, and people should never handle sick or dead rodents.

Don't leave pet food and water where rodents can get to them.

See your doctor if you have any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever after being in a plague-endemic area.

Store hay, wood and compost piles as far as possible away from your home.

One or more swollen, tender and painful lymph nodes, or buboes, usually from the bite of an infected flea. Pneumonic plague includes shortness of breath, chest pain, cough and sometimes bloody mucous.

Plague signs in cats and dogs include fever, lethargy and loss of appetite.

Much less common is the pneumonic plague, which can occur when a bubonic or septicemic plague is not treated and a person's lungs become infected.

Epidemiologists say this case serves as a reminder that plague is risky to people and pets, but the disease should not enourage recreationists from enjoying the Idaho outdoors. With prompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment, fatal infections in people and pets can be limited.

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