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plague in ground squirrels


2017 PLAGUE SEASON

Ground squirrels in Idaho's desert sagebrush areas are known to be a source of plague. The highest risk for plague exposure to animals and humans occurs March through July.

In recent years, pets have become ill or died from contact with ground squirrels or their fleas — and put humans in danger of illness and death. In 2016, four cats from Elmore County and one from Ada County became infected with plague. Four of the five infected cats died.

To-date, no rodent die-offs or infected pets have been reported in 2017. However, Idaho public health and wildlife officials anticipate the potential for ground squirrels who reside in desert areas with sagebrush to carry plague again this season and urge anyone visiting these areas to take precautions to protect themselves and pets from plague.

View Current Plague-Related Materials & Links


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is plague?

Plague occurs naturally in the western United States.

  • Plague is a serious disease caused by bacteria
  • Plague is often passed by the bite of an infected flea
  • Can be passed from animals (including pets) to humans
  • Can be fatal to humans and pets if left untreated

How do people get plague?

  • Bites of infected fleas
  • Touching or skinning infected animals (such as ground squirrels, rats and rabbits)
  • Inhaling droplets of the cough of an infected person or animal (especially sick cats)

How can I avoid plague?

  • 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.
  • Clean up areas near your home where rodents can live, such as woodpiles.
  • 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-impacted area.
  • Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home.
  • Don’t leave pet food and water where rodents or other wild animals can access them.

Resources

CURRENT MATERIALS & LINKS


PAST MATERIALS & LINKS

PAST NEWS RELEASES
News releases may not be issued in every instance of suspected plague infection or plague-related pet death.


Communicable Disease Department at CDHD

If you have health-related questions regarding plague, please call CDHD at 327-8625. Please note that this number and email account are only staffed during weekdays between 8 am and 5 pm.


EMAIL Communicable Disease at CDHD

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