(July 18, 2022): A prairie dog in the Hesperus/Breen area tested positive for Yersinia pestis, which is the bacteria that causes plague on Friday, July 15. Fleas from the prairie dog colony have been collected and sent to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) for further testing, though results are not yet available. There is no known human exposure to the prairie dog, its colony or any fleas in the area. Signs will be posted in the area where the positive prairie dog was collected.

Plague is caused by bacteria that can be transmitted to humans by the bites of infected fleas or by direct contact with infected animals. Plague is frequently detected in rock squirrels, prairie dogs, wood rats, ground squirrels, chipmunks, mice, voles and rabbits. San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) investigates prairie dog population die-offs for the presence of plague. If an active colony of prairie dogs suddenly disappears, please report this to SJBPH.

SJBPH reminds residents that the risk of contracting certain animal-borne diseases, while present year-round, increases during the summer when humans and animals are frequently in close contact. It is important to control the presence of wildlife and fleas around homes as well as wear repellant and appropriate clothing when heading outdoors.

Here are some tips for preventing contact with animal-borne illnesses:

To learn more about the symptoms, treatments, and other information for plague, visit sjbpublichealth.org/communicabledisease/. Information is also available from CDPHE at cdphe.colorado.gov/animal-related-diseases/plague or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov/plague/.