The bubonic plague, which became known as the “Black Death” after killing more than 100 million people in the Middle Ages, has been confirmed in a squirrel in Colorado. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) said the animal tested positive for the disease in the town of Morrison, near Denver, on July 11. It is the first known case of the disease in the US this year.
Bubonic plague is most commonly transmitted to humans by rodents and fleas via bites and scratches.
Bubonic plague caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis and can cause flu-like symptoms including a fever, chills, headache and feeling weak.
Symptoms usually last for up to seven days and is effectively treated with anti-biotics, however if left untreated it can turn into a move severe form and trigger pneumonia.
In a statement the JCPH said: “Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, and can be contracted by humans and household animals if proper precautions are not taken.”
Bubonic plague has been confirmed in the US
A squirrel has tested positive for Bubonic plague in Colorado
The health body urged anyone showing signs of the disease to contact a doctor.
The JCPH said: “Symptoms of plague may include sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, nausea and extreme pain and swelling of lymph nodes, occurring within two to seven days after exposure.
“Plague can be effectively treated with antibiotics when diagnosed early. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should consult a physician.”
As a precaution the health authority has urged pet owners to prevent their animals from being in contact or eating wild animals to prevent any possible transmission of the disease.
Bubonic plague is a bacterial infection also known as the Black Death
Those living close to wild animal habitats are also urge to consult the vet about flea control.
The fresh outbreak comes after health officials in Mongolia said a 15-year-old boy had died from the disease.
The National Centre for Zoonotic Diseases (NCZD) said the teenager from the western province of Govi-Altai had died from eating marmot meat.
Medics wear protective clothing in Mongolia
Five other districts on the border with China have since been placed in quarantine.
Earlier this month two others tested positive for the disease in the neighbouring province of Khovd.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there is on average seven human cases of bubonic plague each year.
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Last week the World Health Organisation said it was “carefully monitoring” the spread but it was “not high risk”.
WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said: “Bubonic plague has been with us and is always with us, for centuries.
“We are looking at the case numbers in China. It’s being well managed.
“At the moment, we are not considering it high risk but we’re watching it, monitoring it carefully.”