Navajo County health officials warn of plague-infected fleas

Fleas collected near Taylor, Arizona have tested positive for for plague, according to Navajo County Public Health officials.

"NCHD have notified the residents and the burrows, which are located on private property, which will be treated," health officials wrote on Facebook. "The area will be closely monitored to determine if further action is required.'

According to the Facebook post, officials are urging the public to take precautions to avoid exposure. Residents are encouraged to avoid rodent burrows and keep dogs on a leash.

Plague-infected fleas have also been found near Red Lake.

The disease can be transmitted to humans and other animals by the bite of an infected flea or by direct contact with an infected animal, according to officials. A sudden die-off of prairie dogs can be an indicator of plague.

If you come into contact with rodents and think you may be infected, see a doctor immediately. Symptoms generally appear between two to six days following exposure, health officials said.

Symptoms include:

• fever, chills, headache

• weakness

• muscle pain

• swollen lymph glands in the groin, armpits or limbs.

"The disease can become septicemic and/or pneumonic," health officials said, "but is curable with proper antibiotic therapy if diagnosed and treated early."

Follow these tips from the Coconino County Public Health Services District to reduce the risk of exposure:

1. Do not handle sick or dead animals.

2. Prevent pets from roaming loose. Pets can pick up the infected fleas of wild animals, and then pass fleas on to their human owners. This is one of the common ways for humans to contract plague. Cats with plague can also pass the disease on to humans directly through respiratory droplets.

3. De-flea pets routinely. Contact your veterinarian for specific recommendations.

4. Avoid rodent burrows and fleas.

5. Use insect repellents when visiting or working in areas where plague might be active or rodents might be present (campers, hikers, woodcutters and hunters).

6. Wear rubber gloves and other protection when cleaning and skinning wild animals.

7. Do not camp next to rodent burrows and avoid sleeping directly on the ground.

8. Be aware that cats are highly susceptible to this disease and while they can get sick from a variety of illnesses, a sick cat (especially one allowed to run at large outside) should receive care by a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment to reduce human exposure to plague.

9. In case of illness see your physician immediately as treatment with antibiotics is very effective.

More information is available at https://www.cdc.gov/plague/.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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