Animal plague activity in Fremont County

by | Sep 17, 2019

Riverton Animal Control made an announcement on September 5th, 2019 about three family dogs that tested positive for the plague at the end of August. The full announcement can be found in our previous post.

Today at the Fremont County Commissioners’ meeting, Public Health Nurse Manager Kathleen Laidlaw shared there has been an increase of community members in Fremont County concerned about humans becoming infected with the plague. Kathleen shared the following annoucement from the Wyoming Department of Health about the plague activity in Fremont County.

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Health Alert Notice – Wyoming Department of Health

Background

The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) is investigating plague (Yersinia pests) activity in Fremont County following reports of three infected dogs during August 20 – September 4th, 2019. Local veterinarians treated all three dogs with appropriate antibiotics. Two of the dogs recovered and are considered non-infectious and one died. WDH is coordinating additional confirmatory testing of animal specimens.

Plague occurs naturally across Wyoming. Wildlife and veterinary professionals detect sporadic cases or outbreaks of plague in infected wildlife, especially rodents. Domestic pets can be infected with plague through flea bites or direct contact with infected animals or carcasses.

Plague Transmission to Humans

Human plague is an uncommon, serious illness requiring prompt and appropriate antibiotic treatment. In the United States, an average of 7 human plague cases are reported annually and the last reported case with an exposure in Wyoming occurred in 2008.

The incubation period is typically 1-7 days following exposure. Most human cases result from exposure through the bite of an infected flea but also may follow percutaneous or mucous membrane exposure to infectious fluids (saliva, exudates, tissues) or contact with airborne respiratory droplets from animals or persons with pneumonic infection.

To date, no suspected human cases have been reported in Fremont County,.

Asymptomatic Patients with Potential Plague Exposure

Patients presenting with potential recent exposure to a plague-infected animal or plague-infected fleas, but who are asymptomatic, should be placed on fever watch for 2 weeks following their last exposure. Depending on the nature of exposure, patients also may be considered for a course of post-exposure prophylaxis. Recommendations for appropriate prophylactic antibiotic treatment can be found from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) https://www.cdc.gov/plague/healthcare/clinicians.html

Plague Symptoms and Diagnosis

Plague is characterized by the abrupt onset of fever, chills, headache and malaise. The bubonic form of plague is the most common and manifests as the acute onset of high fever and a painful swollen regional lymph node. Septicemic plague can be characterized by hypotension, acute respiratory distress, purpuric skin lesions, intravascular coagulopathy, and organ failure. Pneumonic plague is characterized by cough, fever, dyspnea, and hemoptysis. Rare forms of plague include meningeal, pharyngeal, cutaneous, ocular, or gastrointestinal presentations.

Patients with suspected plague infection require immediate treatment with appropriate antibiotics. Diagnostic testing should also be performed for patients with suspected plague infection but should not delay treatment. CDC recommendations for diagnostic testing and treatment of plague can be found at the following website: https://www.cdc.gov/plague/healthcare/clinicians.html

Reporting

Immediately report all patients with possible plague infection or exposure to the Wyoming Department of Health by calling 1-888-996-9104

WDH is available to assist with risk assessment of patients with potential plague illness and exposure.

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