10-year-old dies from complications linked to plague, Colorado officials say

Colorado officials on Thursday said a 10-year-old boy "died from causes associated with plague."

In a statement, the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment said the death of the La Plata County resident was linked to plague confirmed in animals and fleas in six Colorado counties.

"While it’s rare for people to contract plague, we want to make sure everyone knows the symptoms," said Jennifer House, a deputy state epidemiologist and public health veterinarian.

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House noted the plague can be treated with antibiotics if caught early and said people should look for signs of high fever or swollen lymph nodes. 

The plague, otherwise known famously as the bubonic plague or Black Death in 14th-century medieval European references, can be transferred to humans via flea bites or by direct contact with infected animals. The adjective "black" refers to the lymph nodes — or buboes — that become swollen and black after the bacteria yersinia pestis entered the body. 

The plague killed tens of millions of Europeans and was one of the worst pandemics in human history, according to The Washington Post.

House recommended that Colorado residents take safety measures to protect themselves from contracting the bacteria, including avoiding contact with sick or dead animals and staying out of areas where wild rodents live.

"Let a medical provider know if you think you have symptoms of plague or if you think you’ve been exposed," House advised. 

"Awareness and precautions can help prevent the disease in people," she said.