Laboratory testing at the University of Wyoming recently confirmed a cat in Wyoming has been infected with the plague. Yes, the same plague that is infamous for killing millions of people in Europe during the Middle Ages. Today, however, it can be treated with modern antibiotics if caught early.
This is the third cat over a period of six months that has been identified with plague. The cat was from Johnson County; the other two were in Sheridan and Campbell counties.
Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state health officer & epidemiologist with The Wyoming Department of Health said, “Plague is a serious bacterial infection that can be deadly for pets and people if not treated as soon as possible with antibiotics. 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 across the state.”
The infected cat was allowed to roam outside. Outdoor cats are at increased risk of getting infected since they are more likely to encounter or eat an infected animal, like a rabbit or rat, or get bitten by infected fleas.
Only six human cases of plague have been identified in Wyoming, and only an average of 7 human cases each year in the United States. No human plague cases have been reported in connection to infected cats. That said, the Wyoming Department of Health recommends that people in the areas with plague-infected animals should take the following precautions:
- Use insect repellant when in areas that might have fleas
- Use flea repellant on pets
- Avoid exposure to rodents
- Avoid contact with dead rodents
- Avoid areas with unexplained rodent die-offs
Animals infected with plague may exhibit the following symptoms:
- enlarged lymph glands, swelling in the neck and face
Sick animals should, of course, be taken to the veterinarian. More information about plague is available from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/plague/.