The bubonic plague may not stress out your workplace each season, but it’s already shown up three times in six months in Wyoming.
In each case, the disease has been carried by a cat.
According to NBC, the last cat to be diagnosed with the plague was from Johnson County. Before the diagnosis, she was often found playing outside her Kaycee, Wyoming, home. Though she has made a full recovery from the deadly disease, her human may want to keep a closer eye on her from now on.
Two other infected cats were found in Sheridan and Campbell counties in 2018, at least 10 years after the last known human-borne outbreak, though animals and parasites carrying the disease can still pass it on to humans.
“Plague is a serious bacterial infection that can be deadly for pets and people if not treated as soon as possible with antibiotics,” wrote Dr. Alexia Harrist, a state health officer. “We are letting people know of the potential threat in the cat’s home area as well as 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,” Harrist added.
Bubonic plague is most commonly found in rodent colonies. The Wyoming Department of Health recommends people avoid areas where rodents are known to nest, and to mitigate fleas with insect repellent.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention maintains, animals that contract the plague may soon after start expressing symptoms:
- enlarged lymph glands
Similar symptoms show up in human carriers of the bubonic plague, along with:
- extreme exhaustion
- difficulty breathing
- abdominal pain
According to the CDC, cats are “highly susceptible to plague,” as well as a “common source of Yersinia pestis infection in humans.” In Wyoming alone, six humans have been diagnosed with the plague since 1978. One more than that are confirmed each year in the U.S., Fox News reports, often by way of an animal carrier.
Those who suspect their pets may have contracted the bubonic plague should consult a veterinarian immediately. The longer the disease goes untreated, the worse the result.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.
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