Plague confirmed in cats in Albany County
September 1, 2022
Laboratory tests recently confirmed that a cat in rural Albany County died of plague, according to the Wyoming State Health Department (WDH).
Cat homes were located in the Laramie area, and the animals lived mainly outdoors or in outbuildings. Other cats in the group at the same location have also died in the past few months, indicating a possible plague epidemic.
Although there are no human illnesses associated with the current Albany County situation, WDH reported a human case of pneumonic plague in a Fremont County individual exposed to a sick pet outdoor cat last September. According to the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2010 to 2019, there were an average of five plague cases each year in the United States.
WDH epidemiologist Courtney Tillman said, “Plague is a serious bacterial infection that can be fatal to pets and people if not treated with antibiotics as soon as possible.” It can be transmitted from animals to humans and can be transmitted by fleas from infected animals.We want to make people aware of potential threats in cat habitat and to inform people statewide. We are raising awareness about the epidemic.”
“Although the disease rarely infects humans, plague occurs naturally in the western United States where rodents and their fleas infest areas,” says Tillman. “It is safe to assume that plague risk exists throughout our state.”
Recommended precautions to prevent plague infection include:
- Use a repellent if flea exposure is likely during activities such as camping, hiking, or working outdoors. Products containing DEET can be applied to the skin as well as clothing.
- Use flea control products to keep fleas away from your indoor and outdoor pets. Animals that roam freely outdoors are more likely to come into contact with plague-infected animals and fleas.
- Avoid unnecessary exposure to rodents by avoiding areas with unexplained rodent deaths or rodent carcasses.
- If your pet becomes ill, see your veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Do not allow free-roaming dogs or cats to share beds with people.
- Reduce rodent habitat around homes, workplaces and recreational areas by removing undergrowth, rock piles, junk, cluttered firewood, and possible rodent food.
- Wear gloves and a mask when working with potentially infected or dead animals to prevent skin contact with Y. pestis and to avoid inhaling Y. pestis.
Symptoms of plague in pets may include enlarged lymph glands. swelling around the neck, face, or ears; fever; chills; lack of energy; cough; vomiting; diarrhea and dehydration.
Symptoms of plague in people include fever, swollen or tender lymph nodes, extreme fatigue, headache, chills, cough, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Sick people should seek professional medical attention.
More information about plague is available from the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov/plague/).