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Cat Tests Positive For Bubonic Plague In Evergreen

EVERGREEN, Colo. (CBS4) - A cat is sick with the plague in Jefferson County. Officials with Jefferson County Public Health said on Monday a domestic cat living in Evergreen tested positive for bubonic plague at the end of October.

They think it came in contact with a sick rodent -- possibly a rat.

It's the first case of the plague in Jefferson County this year.

Jim Rada, the director of Environmental Health Services at JCPH, says that modern antibiotics are effective against plague.

"While plague is a serious disease, and cases of animal-borne disease in household pets is never something we like to see, it is normal and expected for some animals to contract plague in Jefferson County each year," Rada said in a prepared statement.

Humans can be infected through bites from infected fleas or by indirect exposure, such as cough, or direct exposure -- like a bite -- from an infected animal. An infected person or animal can suffer from high fever, chills, headache, nausea and swelling of lymph nodes. The symptoms show up within two to seven days after exposure. When treated promptly, severe complications, illness or death can be avoided.

Two human cases of plague were reported in Colorado last year and both patients survived. Both people had exposure to sick animals, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

RELATED: 'They Say It's Kind Of Quietly Always Here': Public Health Specialist In Colorado Discusses Bubonic Plague

Plague has been present in Colorado for at least 80 years.

The following actions can be taken to protect you and your pets from plague, according to the CDPHE:

- Don't directly handle wildlife.
- Keep pets away from dead rodents and rabbits.
- Dogs and cats should be prevented from hunting prairie dogs, other rodents, or rabbits.
- Follow a veterinarian's advice for treatment of fleas if a pet has a case of them.
- Feeding wildlife, other than birds, is a big no-no. It attracts the animals to your property, bringing them in close contact where disease transmission is more likely.

Health officials urge the public to call their offices if they believe an animal might be infected, or if they witness sudden die-offs of numerous wild animals, which could be a sign that the plague is present and spreading.

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