- Plague Advisory for Veterinarians updated 6/15/2016
- News Release - 6/10/2016
- News Release - 6/3/2016
Pet Cat Likely Died of Plague
- News Release - 5/27/2016
- Report Rodent Die-Offs
- CDC Plague Flyer
- Idaho Fish and Game
- Report ground squirrel die offs
- Centers for Disease Control
- News Release - 6/4/2015
- News Release - 5/22/2015
- Flyer posted in affected area (2015)
- CDHD flyer to area residents (2015)
- Information for Health Professionals
- Information for Veterinarians (2015)
If you have health questions related to plague, please call CDHD at 327-8625
Plague Illness Impacting Ground Squirrels
and Pets; Precautions Urged
Photo courtesy of USAF Airman Shane Phipps
To date, plague has been found in dead ground squirrels and was confirmed in the deaths of four pet cats from Elmore County. Additionally, an Ada County cat became sickened by plague, but has recovered after prompt treatment.
Public health officials are asking area residents and public to take precautions if they live or recreate in any area with known ground squirrels, even if they are outside the known area of impact. Please continue reading to learn about recommendations.
Ground squirrels typically hibernate in early July, at which time the threat of plague will significantly decrease. It is important to note that tree squirrels or fox squirrels, which often live in residential areas, are not of concern.
2016 Area of Impact
Click on the map to view a larger version.
An interactive map is available here ------------------------------->
Frequently Asked Questions
What is plague?
Plague occurs naturally in the western United States. It is transmitted by fleas and cycles among wild rodents. Plague can also infect humans and their pets and can be a life-threatening illness.
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)
What are the symptoms of plague?
Symptoms in humans generally include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, weakness. Often there is painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck.
Symptoms in cats and dogs include fever, tiredness and loss of appetite. There may be a swelling in the lymph node under the jaw.
If you or your pet develop symptoms of plague, seek medical attention immediately.
Plague can be treated successfully with antibiotics, but an infected person must be treated promptly to avoid serious complications or death.
How can I protect myself and my family from getting plague?
- Remove brush, rock piles, trash, and excess firewood around homes, sheds and garages. This will help prevent rodents from nesting in these areas.
- Avoid picking up or touching dead animals.
- Wear gloves if you must handle dead animals.
- Do not let pets sleep in bed with you. This has been shown to increase your risk of getting plague.
- Use insect repellent that includes DEET to prevent flea bites.
How can I protect my pets from getting plague?
- Treat dogs and cats for fleas regularly.
- Keep pet food in rodent-proof containers.
- Do not allow pets to hunt or roam in rodent habitat.
- Immediately take your pet to the veterinarian if they develop fever, tiredness, and/or loss of appetite after contact with rodents or after hunting.
What should I do if I find dead ground squirrels near my home?
If you find dead ground squirrels near your home, follow these steps to safely dispose of them:
- Wear protective clothing. This includes long sleeves and long pants, boots, and disposable gloves.
- Spray yourself with an insect repellent that includes DEET.
- Use a shovel to put the dead animal in a garbage bag or use a garbage bag turned inside out to pick up the carcass (like picking up dog poop). Without touching the carcass, turn the bag right side out and tie it up. Double bag it and put it in the trash.
Should I be concerned about tree squirrels in my area?
No, at this time we are only concerned about ground squirrels.
How do we know plague is present in the ground squirrels?
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game collected dead ground squirrels from several areas in Ada County and submitted them to public health laboratories for testing. The laboratory found the plague bacterium. Ground squirrel populations with plague can experience high mortality, sometimes evidenced by large numbers of carcasses.
Are you going to test more dead animals?
Idaho Fish and Game would like to know about multiple (greater than 5) ground squirrels, yellow-bellied marmots (aka "rock-chucks"), voles, cottontail rabbits or jackrabbits. Additional testing may be done to determine the geographic range of the disease. Fill out a form to report animal die-offs or Contact your Idaho Department of Fish and Game office / (Southwest Regional Office,  465-8465. This will help determine the extent of the problem in the wildlife and help human health professionals target outreach and awareness efforts in appropriate areas.
Who do I contact if I have questions?
If you have health questions related to plague, please call CDHD at 327-8625. If you have questions related to ground squirrel habitats and activity, please contact the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at 334-3700.