MDG officials provide update on animal plague in Denver

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Fourteen dead tree squirrels and one dead rabbit in the Denver metropolitan area have tested positive for plague since April 26. 

The majority of these animals have been found around the City Park area of Denver, although plague positive animals have been found in other metro counties. Public health agencies in Denver and the surrounding metropolitan region continue to conduct surveillance for plague in animals. 

There are no known human cases associated with this event and the risk of humans contracting plague is considered to be extremely low. Colorado averages only two human plague cases per year. 

Plague is a seasonal occurrence that is maintained in a complex cycle among wild rodents and rabbits and their fleas in the western United States. It is transmitted through bites from infectious rodent fleas, like prairie dogs, rabbits, ground squirrels and wood rats. Free-roaming pets such as dogs and cats may carry infectious fleas from active plague area back to the home. Cats are a greater concern because they may become infected from hunting infected rodents and can transmit plague from bites and scratches. 

Public Health officials from the 460th Medical Group continue to conduct surveillance for plague in animals on Buckley Air Force Base. Team Buckley members can help minimize the risk to yourself and others by following these simple steps:
  • Report observations of multiple sick or dead animals off base to the CO-HELP Line at 1-877-462-2911 and on-base to Pest Management at 720-847-6991.
  • Eliminate sources of food and nesting places for rodents around homes, work places, and recreation areas; remove brush, rock piles, junk, and potential-food supplies, such as garbage and pet food.
  • People anticipating exposure to rodent fleas should apply insect repellent to clothing and skin to prevent flea bites. 
  • Do not directly handle wild animals, whether dead or alive. To dispose of dead animals, use a shovel or scoop to place the animal into a plastic bag. Wear gloves as an additional precaution. 
  • Treat pet dogs and cats for flea control regularly and do not allow these animals to roam freely.