Plague-Infested Fleas Found in Arizona, Authorities Urge Precautions

Fleas carrying plague have been found in northern Arizona, according to the local public health agency.

Fleas that tested positive for the plague were found in two areas of Coconino County—the Doney Park area, northeast of Flagstaff, and in the Red Lake area, some 5 miles northeast of Williams, according to the county’s Public Health Services District.

The agency warned, “There are likely additional locations with infected fleas” in the county.

“Environmental Health staff will continue to collect and test flea samples from locations throughout the county,” it stated.

The agency urged residents to take precautions to avoid the disease.

The plague can be transmitted by fleas, rodents, rabbits, and predators that feed upon these animals. Humans can contract it by getting bitten by a flea or by touching an infected animal.

“To limit possible exposure, people are encouraged to avoid rodent burrows and keep dogs on a leash as required by Arizona state law,” the agency stated.

Especially susceptible are cats, which often roam free outside and can pass on fleas to humans or even infect people directly through respiratory droplets.

The plague is rare in United States and usually limited to Northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, southern Colorado, California, southern Oregon, and far western Nevada.

Across the United States, 16 cases were reported and four people died of the plague in 2015 (the last year with national statistics), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least three people were hospitalized with the plague this year in New Mexico.

Symptoms of the plague in humans include a sudden onset of fever, chills, headaches, and weakness. In most cases there is a painful swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin, armpit, or neck areas.

Symptoms of the plague in cats and dogs are fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite. There may be a swelling in the lymph node under the jaw.

The plague has caused deadly pandemics throughout history, most infamously the Black Death in the 14th century.

Today, it can be treated with antibiotics, but needs to be caught early or it can still result in death.

The Coconino County Public Health Services District recommends the following precautions:

  • Do not handle sick or dead animals.
  • Prevent pets from roaming loose.
  • De-flea pets routinely. Contact your veterinarian for specific recommendations.
  • Avoid rodent burrows and fleas.
  • Use insect repellents when visiting or working in areas where plague might be active or rodents might be present (campers, hikers, woodcutters, and hunters).
  • Wear rubber gloves and other protection when cleaning and skinning wild animals.
  • Do not camp next to rodent burrows and avoid sleeping directly on the ground.
  • Have your sick cat diagnosed by a veterinarian.
  • In case of illness see your physician immediately.

From The Epoch Times

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Male Xenopsylla cheopis (oriental rat flea) engorged with blood. This flea is the primary vector of plague in most large plague epidemics in Asia, Africa, and South America. Both male and female fleas can transmit the infection. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Male Xenopsylla cheopis (oriental rat flea) engorged with blood. This flea is the primary vector of the plague in most large plague epidemics in Asia, Africa, and South America. Both male and female fleas can transmit the infection. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Two people have recently contracted the plague in New Mexico, the state’s Health Department confirmed. That adds to one case already reported this year. All three required hospitalization, none have died.

The newly infected are two women, a 52-year-old and a 62-year-old, from Santa Fe County.

Mexico’s health department stated it “conducted environmental investigations around the homes of the patients to look for ongoing risk and to ensure the safety of the immediate family and neighbors.”

The plague is a bacterial disease carried by rodents and generally transmitted to humans through flea bites. It can also be transmitted by direct contact with infected animals, including wildlife and pets.

“Pets that are allowed to roam and hunt can bring infected fleas from dead rodents back into the home, putting you and your children at risk,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, public health veterinarian for the Department of Health.

He recommended keeping pets on a leash or at home.

Last year, New Mexico recognized four cases of human plague in 2016 in Bernalillo, Mora, and Rio Arriba counties, and four cases in 2015 in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties. One person died.

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(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Across the United States, 16 cases were reported and four people died of plague in 2015, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Symptoms of the plague in humans include a sudden onset of fever, chills, headaches, and weakness. In most cases there is a painful swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin, armpit, or neck areas.

Plague symptoms in cats and dogs are fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite. There may be a swelling in the lymph node under the jaw.

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Plague has caused deadly pandemics throughout history, most infamously the Black Death in the 14th century.

Today, it can be treated with antibiotics, but it needs to be caught early or it can still result in death.

To prevent plague, the New Mexico Department of Health recommends the following:

  • Talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product on your pets as not all products are safe for cats, dogs, or your children.
  • Clean up areas near the house where rodents could live, such as woodpiles, brush piles, junk and abandoned vehicles.
  • Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian.
  • See your doctor about any unexplained illness involving a sudden and high fever.
  • Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home.
  • Don’t leave your pet’s food and water where mice can get to it.

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