While everyone was busy trying to not let their heads explode from information overload, a small (but not so small) news item crossed the Arizona airwaves relatively unnoticed. According to ABC 15 Arizona:
Fleas collected near Flagstaff have tested positive for the plague, according to officials with the Coconino County Public Health Services District.
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The fleas were collected and tested as part of surveillance being done by the CCPHSD Environment Health staff due to the die-off of prairie dogs in the area. The fleas were taken from burrows being monitored in the area near Doney Park.
Residents in the area were notified of the positive test and those burrows have since been treated. Officials will continue to monitor the situation to determine if the area will need to be treated again.
This is the first positive test of plague activity reported in Coconino County this year, but said the disease is “endemic to areas throughout the County and may be more widespread,” in a press release.
The CCPHSD said symptoms typically appear in humans within two to six days following exposure to the disease. Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, weakness, muscle pain and swollen lymph glands in the groin, armpits or limbs.
The disease is found in rodents, rabbits and predators that feed upon these animals. It can be transferred to humans by a bite from an infected flea or animal.
Health officials are encouraging the public to follow the tips below to lower their risk of exposure to the disease. It can be treated with antibiotic therapy if diagnosed and treated early.
TIPS TO LOWER RISK OF BEING EXPOSED TO THE PLAGUE:
Do not handle sick or dead animals
Prevent pets from roaming loose. Pets can pick up the infected fleas of wild animals and then pass fleas on to their owners. Cats with plague can also pass the disease onto humans directly through respiratory droplets.
Note: Be aware, cats are highly susceptible to this disease.
De-flea pets routinely.
Avoid exposure to rodent burrows and fleas.
Use insect repellents when visiting or working in areas where plague might be active or rodents might be present
Wear rubber gloves and other protection when cleaning and skinning wild animals.
Do not camp next to rodent burrows and avoid sleeping directly on the ground.
If feeling ill, contact doctor right away.
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