ELMORE COUNTY, Idaho (KLIX) – Public health officials say a confirmed case of plague has been reported in a southwestern Idaho community. It is the first confirmed human case pf plague identified in Idaho since 1992.

The child, who was reported ill with the bacterial disease in Elmore County, is recovering from the illness, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. It is unknown whether the child was exposed to the disease in Idaho or while on a recent trip to Oregon. The health department says plague has historically been found in wildlife in both states.

Plague is a bacterial disease that is harmful to both people and their pets. It is transmitted through the bites of infected fleas and can cause serious illness if not treated quickly.

It also can be transmitted to people by direct contact with infected animals, including rodents, rabbits and pets. Common rodents that can become infected include ground squirrels, rats, voles and mice. Tree squirrels in Idaho are not known to carry plague.

The health department says people can reduce their risk of infection by taking simple precautions, including avoiding contact with wild rodents, their fleas, and rodent carcasses.

Health officials recommend:

  • Do not feed rodents in picnic or campground areas and never handle sick or dead rodents.
  • Keep your pets from roaming and hunting ground squirrels or other rodents in affected desert areas.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product on pets as not all products are safe for cats, dogs or children.
  • Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian, especially if they may have had contact with sick or dead rodents in the desert areas south and east of Boise.
  • See your doctor if you have any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever after being in a plague-endemic area.
  • Clean up areas near your home where rodents can live, such as woodpiles, and put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as away as possible.
  • Don’t leave pet food and water where rodents or other wild animals can access them.

Common symptoms of plague in humans include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, and weakness. In most cases, painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck areas will occur. In some cases, rapidly developing signs of pneumonia (shortness of breath, chest pain, cough) can occur.

Anyone with these symptoms should seek medical attention.

Plague symptoms in cats and dogs are fever, lethargy and loss of appetite, with possible swelling in the lymph node under the jaw. Cats with plague pneumonia can give it to people.


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