Squirrel Tests Positive For Bubonic Plague in Colorado; How Can Pet Owner Stay Safe?

Bubonic plague killed almost 50 million people from Europe, Asia and Africa in the 1340s.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has confirmed the first case of Bubonic plague in a squirrel. The incident was reported from Jefferson County, which is 18 miles southwest of Denver. A health warning has been issued by the department in the region, specifically Morrison, where the ailing squirrel is said to have been found.

The Bubonic plague is not new to mankind, as it has a history of claiming millions of lives since the 14th Century when it was first discovered. This particular plague was the reason for what is called the 'Black Death', which killed almost 50 million people from Europe, Asia and Africa in the 1340s. Studies and scientific research till date point that bacteria Yersinia Pestis evident in rodents caused the Bubonic plague. However, there have been findings by universities in Oslo and Ferrara where researchers largely blamed 'human fleas and body lice' for black death.

Interestingly, the squirrel found in Denver is now being treated, and more details over the same are awaited. WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters: "Bubonic plague has always been with us, however it is being managed well. There is no high risk as of now, but we are monitoring the situation in China."

Last week, China warned about the plague outbreak in parts of Inner Mongolia. Later the authorities in China hinted that cases of Bubonic plague are treatable if diagnosed in time.

A microbiologist at the University of Southampton, Dr Matthew Dryden, asserts: "Bubonic plague is caused by a bacterium and so, unlike COVID-19, is readily treated with antibiotics. So although this might appear alarming, being another major infectious disease emerging from the East, it appears to be a single suspected case which can be readily treated."

He also hailed the effort by China in tracking the plague inside its territory at an early stage, so it can be isolated. In the meantime, if not treated within 24 hours of diagnosis, this plague still has the potential to kill. Owing to threats ascertained, the Colorado Health Department has now issued certain guidelines for its people. Here are a few:

  1. As animals are likely to get affected by these rodent fleas, eliminate food and shelter of your pets at home
  2. Maintain hygiene in your surroundings so wild animal habitats, including rats and other rodents can be avoided
  3. Pets and humans must avoid contact with ailing or dead animals
  4. Precautions must while handling sick pets at home
  5. Get your pets checked by vets
  6. Mind where your pets are wandering, they might get the plague causing bacteria inside your home

According to the Chinese news agency Xinhua, two cases of plague were confirmed at a province near Mongolia. They were said to be two individuals who had consumed marmot meat, and later tested positive for the plague. Since then, officials in China claimed that there have been certain restrictions in consuming meat of wild animals.

Most captivating animal pictures of 2016
Image for representation only Reuters