Bubonic plague found in cat in Truckee

B y T r i n a K l e i s t
Sun News Service

TRUCKEE and#8212; A domestic cat in the Truckee area has been diagnosed with bubonic plague, the Nevada County Health Department said late Friday.

Confirmation of the bacteria came shortly after 5 p.m. from the state Vector Laboratory of the California Department of Public Health, in Sacramento, said Environmental Health Director Wesley Nicks.

The owners of the animal, who live in the Glenshire housing development, are taking antibiotics as a precaution and have been advised about eradicating fleas from the house, Nick said.

Infected fleas can spread the bacterium by biting animals and people. Infected pets also can spread it to their owners through their saliva and by carrying infected fleas and infected rodents into the home, Nicks said.

Every year, the county gets one or two cases of bubonic plague, typically in wild rodents including squirrels and rats, and occasionally in domestic animals, Nicks added.

and#8220;It can occur in western Nevada County,and#8221; Nicks said. and#8220;It’s more common at the higher elevations.and#8221;

Plague death in New Mexico

In related news, an 8-year-old boy in New Mexico died from bubonic plague, the first plague death in the nation this year, the Associated Press reported. The New Mexico Health Department reported the death Thursday, but did not say when the boy died.

Symptoms of bubonic plague in humans include fever, chills, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea and swollen lymph nodes in the groin, armpit or neck areas, the county Environmental Health Department reported.

Bubonic plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis (formerly known as Pasteurella pestis), is a less-serious phase of the disease that has three phases: Bubonic plague is an infection of the lymph nodes; septicemic plague is an infection of the blood; and pneumonic plague is an infection of the lungs.

The form that caused the terrifying Black Death over hundreds of years in Europe starting in the 14th century was the pneumonic plague, Nicks said. Pneumonic plague symptoms can include severe cough, difficulty breathing and bloody sputum, the county reported.

and#8220;The less serious, more common bubonic phase of the illness can sometimes develop into pneumonic plague, which is quite serious and often fatal. Pneumonic plague is also easily transmitted to humans through sneezing, coughing or other oral routes,and#8221; a county press release said.

Most people become ill from the bacterium a few days after being infected, but it could be as short as a few hours for pneumonic plague, the county Environmental Health Department reported.

While a couple of cases is normal for the county, officials will be on the look-out for more.

and#8220;What we’re looking for is a larger outbreak and#8212; a lot of rodents that suddenly die,and#8221; Nicks said.

The plague was discovered when the cat’s owners noticed symptoms and took the animal to a local veterinarian, who sent a sample to the state for analysis.

Hunters can contract the disease from wild animals, the Environmental Health Department said.

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