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Plague results in mass die-offs in Weld County prairie dog colony

Posted at 12:18 PM, Aug 15, 2019
and last updated 2023-11-07 19:32:05-05

WELD COUNTY, Colo. — Public health officials have confirmed a prairie dog colony in Weld County is suffering from a plague.

The Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment said the plague resulted in mass animal die-offs. They have seen an increase in the plague in colonies this year.

The plague is a serious bacterial disease spread by infected fleas. While it can spread to humans and other mammals, health officials said the risk to public health is low because the colony lives on private property in a rural area of the county.

Prairie dogs are sensitive to the plague and the infected fleas can kill off an entire colony.

Mark E. Wallace, executive director of Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment, said their sudden absence could be a warning sign.

“Residents should protect themselves by keeping fleas off pets and using an insect repellent when working, playing or camping in areas where fleas may be present,” he said.

The health department also recommends:
· Avoiding contact with sick and dead rodents and rabbits
· Removing any rodent or rabbit carcasses from your property with gloves and a shovel
· Talking to your veterinarian about using a flea control product on your pet
· Not feeding or enticing any rodent or rabbit species to stay on your property. Eliminate rodent habitat.

If you believe you may be infected with this disease, seek medical care. Symptoms for a person include a sudden fever, headache, chills, weakness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and swollen and painful lymph nodes near the flea bit. The plague is easily treatable with antibiotics, the health department said. If it goes untreated, severe disease and even death may occur.

For more information on the plague or to report prairie dog colony die-offs, call the Environmental Health Division of the Weld County Health Department at 970-304-6415.