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Confirmed case of plague found in Albany County cat, WDH sends prevention reminders


GILLETTE, Wyo. —  A confirmed case of the plague has been found in an Albany County cat and has prompted the Wyoming Department of Health to release prevention reminders.

The Laramie-area cat is an indoor–outdoor pet and is known to hunt rodents. It is being treated and no human illnesses have been associated with the current situation, according to a press release.

The last human case of pneumonic plague reported by the WDH was in Fremont County in September 2021, when an individual was exposed to sick pet outdoor cats.

“Plague is a serious bacterial infection that can be deadly for pets and people if not treated as soon as possible with antibiotics,” said Dr. Emily Curren, state public health veterinarian with the WDH. “The disease can be passed to humans from ill animals and by fleas coming from infected animals. We are letting people know of the potential threat in the cat’s home area as well as offering a reminder about plague to people across the state.”

“While the disease is rare in humans, plague occurs naturally in the western United States in areas where rodents and their fleas become infected,” Curren said. “It is safe to assume a risk for plague exists all around our state.”

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during 2011–2020 there was an average of six human plague cases each year in the U.S.

Recommended precautions, as advised by the WDH, to help prevent plague infection include:

  • Use repellent if exposure to fleas is possible during activities such as camping, hiking or working outdoors. Products containing DEET can be applied to the skin as well as clothing.
  • Keep fleas off indoor and outdoor pets by applying flea control products. Animals that roam freely outdoors are more likely to come into contact with plague-infected animals or fleas.
  • Avoid unnecessary exposure to rodents, including avoiding areas with unexplained rodent die-offs and rodent carcasses.
  • If pets become sick, seek care for them from a veterinarian as soon as possible.
  • Do not allow dogs or cats that roam free to share beds with people.
  • Reduce rodent habitats around the home, workplace and recreational areas by removing brush, rock piles, junk, cluttered firewood and possible rodent food supplies.
  • Wear gloves and a mask if handling potentially infected or deceased animals to prevent contact between your skin and the plague bacteria and to prevent inhaling the plague bacteria.

Plague symptoms in pets can include enlarged lymph glands; swelling in the neck, face or around the ears; fever; chills; lack of energy; coughing; vomiting; diarrhea; and dehydration.

Plague symptoms in people can include fever, swollen and tender lymph glands, extreme exhaustion, headache, chills, coughing, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. People who are ill should seek professional medical attention.

More information about plague is available from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/plague/.