Plague killed Archuleta County resident, health officials confirm

An Archuleta County resident died from the plague, health officials announced Monday.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, alongside San Juan Basin Public Health, is investigating after laboratory testing confirmed the unidentified resident died from plague.

“While this disease is very rare, it is important to be aware of how you can be exposed and the symptoms it can cause,” said Tiffany Switzer, interim executive director of SJBPH. “If you think you have symptoms consistent with plague, seek health care immediately and let them know you may have been exposed.”

Plague is caused by bacteria that can be transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas or by direct contact with infected animals, according to a Monday news release from San Juan Basin Public Health.

According to the release, plague is frequently detected in rock squirrels, prairie dogs, wood rats, and other species of ground squirrels and chipmunks. Residents should not eradicate or kill prairie dogs on their property as this increases the risk of exposure to plague-infested fleas.

While the risk of contracting animal-borne diseases like the plague is higher during the summer, it is present year-round and residents should take precautions, the release stated.

This includes wearing insect repellent outdoors, keeping pets up to date on their vaccinations and away from wildlife, avoiding sleeping in the same bed as pets, avoiding feeding or handling wild animals and acting quickly to prevent or address rodent infestations.

Plague is treatable. Symptoms include the sudden onset of high fever and/or swollen lymph nodes, the news release stated.

More information about plague symptoms and treatments is available online from San Juan Basin Public Health, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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