Story at a glance

  • Cases of the plague have been confirmed in fleas and animals in Colorado, as well as in the death of a 10-year-old girl.
  • The plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis and is typically found in rodent fleas.
  • Most humans contract the plague by being bitten by an infected flea or handling an infected animal, such as rats, squirrels and prairie dogs.

Cases of the plague have been confirmed in fleas and animals in Colorado, as well as in the death of a 10-year-old girl, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

The plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis and is typically found in rodent fleas. Most humans contract the plague by being bitten by an infected flea or handling an infected animal, such as rats, squirrels and even prairie dogs.

A 10-year-old girl from La Plata County has died from complications stemming from the plague.

“In Colorado, we expect to have fleas test positive for plague during the summer months. Awareness and precautions can help prevent the disease in people. While it’s rare for people to contract plague, we want to make sure everyone knows the symptoms. The disease is treatable if caught early. Let a medical provider know if you think you have symptoms of plague or if you think you’ve been exposed,” said Jennifer House, deputy state epidemiologist and public health veterinarian for the CDPHE.


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Symptoms of the plague include the sudden onset of a high fever and swollen lymph nodes. The plague is treatable in humans and animals if caught and addressed early. 

CBSN Denver noted that last year, two people in Colorado were confirmed to have contracted the plague, and both survived.

According to the CDPHE, the best ways to avoid the plague are: avoiding fleas, staying away from areas rodents inhabit, avoiding contact with both wild and dead rodents, consulting with a pest company to prevent rodent infestations, contacting a veterinarian if you notice symptoms in a pet and making children aware of these precautions.


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Published on Jul 23, 2021