Animal plague found in Laramie County

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LARAMIE COUNTY - A housecat has been diagnosed with pneumonic (the lung form) of plague in rural western Laramie County.

Plague, known as the Black Death during medieval times, is a serious bacterial infection that can be deadly if not treated promptly with antibiotics. The pneumonic form of plague can be easily transmitted from a coughing cat or other animal to a human. Humans can then breathe in the bacteria and develop pneumonic plague as well.

On October 26, the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) notified Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department (CLCHD) of a plague positive housecat submitted to the Wyoming State Veterinary Lab on October 21.

Over a dozen individuals who came into contact with the cat are currently being assessed by WDH staff epidemiologists to determine if they need to receive antibiotics. The WDH is also coordinating laboratory testing of some individuals.

Although this is thought to be an isolated case, plague has been present in the area for some time as evidenced by animal cases from 2005 and 2008.

All residents are encouraged to be alert, be aware of the symptoms and take precautions but they should not be alarmed, as plague is believed to be endemic in Wyoming wildlife.

Precautions: Avoid unnecessary exposure to rodents, avoid contact with rodent carcasses, avoid areas with unexplained rodent die-off, use insect repellent on boots and pants when in areas that might have fleas, use flea repellent on pets, and properly dispose of rodents which pets bring home.

Initial plague symptoms in animals can include: Enlarged lymph nodes, swelling in the neck, face or around the ears, fever, chills, lack of energy, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration.

Initial plague symptoms in people can include: Swollen and tender lymph glands, extreme exhaustion, headache, chills, fever, coughing, difficult breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.

For further information on plague contact the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department at 307-633-4090 or www.laramiecountyhealth.com More information is also available online from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/palgue/facts.htm