Sheridan County cat confirmed to have had the plague

BIG HORN, Wyo. (KOTA TV) - A Sheridan County cat has recently been confirmed as infected with plague, according to the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH). No human cases have been identified in the area.

The cat’s home is in Big Horn and the animal is known to wander outdoors in the area. The illness was confirmed by the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory in Laramie earlier this week.

“Plague is a serious bacterial infection that can be deadly for pets and for people if not treated as soon as possible with antibiotics,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH. “The disease can be transmitted to humans from ill animals and by fleas coming from infected animals. We want people to know of the potential threat in the cat’s home area as well as across the state.”

“While the disease is rare in humans, we assume the risk for plague exists all around Wyoming,” Harrist said. Six human cases of plague have been exposed in Wyoming since 1978 with the last one investigated in 2008. There are an average of seven human cases across the nation each year.

Recommended precautions to help prevent plague infection include:
-Use insect repellent on boots and pants when in areas that might have fleas
-Use flea repellent on pets, and properly dispose of rodents pets may bring home
-Avoid unnecessary exposure to rodents
-Avoid contact with rodent carcasses
-Avoid areas with unexplained rodent die-offs

Plague symptoms in pets can include enlarged lymph glands; swelling in the neck, face or around the ears; fever; chills; lack of energy; coughing; vomiting; diarrhea and dehydration. Ill animals should be taken to a veterinarian.

Plague symptoms in people can include fever, swollen and tender lymph glands, extreme exhaustion, headache, chills, coughing, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. People who are ill should seek professional medical attention.