Child in Idaho being treated for plague

Plague is spread to humans through flea bites

IDAHO — A child in Elmore County, Idaho is at home after being treated with antibiotics for a plague infection, according to health department officials there.

It's still unknown whether the child was exposed to the plague in Idaho or whether it may have happened on a recent trip to Oregon. Plague has been found in the wildlife of both states, with only eight human cases confirmed in Oregon and two in Idaho since 1990.

“Plague is spread to humans through a bite from an infected flea. People can decrease their risk by treating their pets for fleas and avoiding contact with wildlife,” said Sarah Correll, D.V.M., Central District Health Department epidemiologist. “Wear insect repellant, long pants and socks when visiting plague-affected areas.”

Plague was identified in 2015 and 2016 in ground squirrels in both Elmore and south Ada counties in Idaho. However, this season, no ground squirrel die-offs or unusual behavior has been reported by state wildlife officials. 
 
Protecting humans and pets

  • Don’t touch or handle wild rodents or their carcasses.
  • Keep pets from roaming and hunting rodents. When an animal dies from the plague, fleas leave the body and look for another host, which could be a pet, especially if it rolls in a carcass or eats it.
  • Talk to a veterinarian about flea control for pets before venturing out to ground squirrel areas, and follow the directions on the label. Not all flea products are safe for dogs and cats.
  • If you find a group of dead ground squirrels, you can report it to your state's fish and gaming department.
  • Don’t feed rodents in campgrounds, picnic areas, or near your home.
  • Clean up areas near your home where rodents could live.
  • Store hay, wood and compost piles as far as possible away from your home.
  • Don’t leave pet food and water where rodents can get to them. 
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