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Plague Confirmed in Prairie Dog Die Off Near Florence

Sudden inactivity in a prairie dog colony near the Colorado State Veterans Home south of Florence raised concerns of a die off due to plague.

The presence of plague has been confirmed in Fremont County following a die off of a prairie dog colony on the south edge of Florence.  The Fremont County Board of Health (County Commissioners) was informed Monday that Environmental Health Officer Sid Darden was called to investigate last week after people along Moore Drive south of Florence noticed inactivity in a normally busy prairie dog colony.   Suspecting a potential die-off possibly due to the plague, Darden investigated and collected fleas from prairie dog holes and dead animals.   All fleas collected tested positive for the plague.

This is the first time in several years that Fremont County has had confirmed plague. At this time there are no reported domestic animal or human cases.

Fremont County Department of Public Health & Environment has these suggestions to keep yourself safe:

•           As plague is transmitted by fleas, protect pets with flea powder and keep pets on a leash and out of wild rodent habitats.

•           Stay out of areas that rodents inhabit such as prairie dog colonies. If you enter areas with rodents, wear insect repellent and tuck pant cuffs into socks to prevent flea bites.

•           Keep outside trash cans tightly covered.

•           Do not touch or pick up sick, dead or dying animals.

•           Prevent rodent infestations around your house: clear brush, rock piles, cluttered firewood and other materials away from outside walls, restrict rodent access to food items such as dog or cat food.

•           Be watchful for any unusual rodent die-off in your area.

•           Do not attempt to catch, feed, handle or exterminate prairie dogs, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits or other wild animals.

Symptoms of plague infection in humans include a high fever, chills, headache, extreme fatigue and tender or swollen lymph glands. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor at once.