The Wyoming Department of Health announced that there is a rare human case of the pneumonic plague in Fremont County.

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According to a release from WDH, "Plague is a bacterial infection that can be deadly to humans and other mammals, including pets, if not treated promptly with antibiotics. This disease can be transmitted to humans from sick animals or by fleas coming from infected animals; in this case, the person had contact with sick pet cats."

The Department of Health said that the plague can also be transmitted from person to person through close contact.

"Individuals with a known exposure to plague require post-exposure treatment with antibiotics to help prevent illness. WDH is notifying individuals who may need this kind of treatment."

WDH stated that plague symptoms can present themselves in a variety of ways and they depend on how the patient is exposed.

"The most common form is bubonic plague, where patients develop the sudden onset of fever, headache, chills, and weakness and one or more swollen, painful lymph nodes called buboes," the Department stated. "This form usually results from the bite of an infected flea. Individuals with septicemic plague develop fever, chills, extreme weakness, abdominal pain, shock, and possible bleeding into the skin and other organs. Septicemic plague can occur as the first symptom of plague or may develop from untreated bubonic plague and can be caused by the bite of an infected flea or the handling of an infected animal. Individuals with pneumonic plague develop fever, headache, weakness, and a rapidly developing pneumonia with shortness of breath, chest pain, and sometimes watery or bloody mucous."

Most importantly, the Department of Health stated that the Pneumonic plague is the most serious form and it's the only form that can be transmitted from person to person. They said that the Pneumonic plague can develop from infectious droplets or could develop from untreated bubonic or septicemic plague.

Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state health officer and state epidemiologist with the Wyoming Department of Health stated that, while the risk for humans to contract the plague is low in Wyoming, there are documented cases throughout the state in domestic and wild animals.

“It’s safe to assume that the risk for plague exists all around our state,” Harrist said. “While the disease is rare in humans, it is important for people to take precautions to reduce exposure and to seek prompt medical care if symptoms consistent with plague develop.”

The Wyoming Department of Health recommends the following precautions to reduce the risk of the plague:

  • Reducing rodent habitats around the home, workplace, and recreational areas by removing brush, rock piles, junk, cluttered firewood, and possible rodent food supplies.
  • Wear gloves if handling or skinning potentially infected animals to prevent contact between your skin and the plague bacteria.
  • Use repellent if exposure to fleas is possible during activities such as camping, hiking, or working outdoors. Products containing DEET can be applied to the skin as well as clothing.
  • Keep fleas off indoor and outdoor pets by applying flea control products. Animals that roam freely outdoors are more likely to come into contact with plague-infected animals or fleas.
  • If pets become sick, seek care from a veterinarian as soon as possible.
  • Do not allow dogs or cats that roam free to share beds with people.

The WDH notes that this case is the seventh thought to be acquired in Wyoming since 1978.

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