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Wyoming cat tests positive for plague

BUFFALO, Wyo. – A housecat in Kaycee, Wyo., has tested positive for infection with the plague, the Johnson County, Wyoming Department of Health officials said Tuesday.

The cat is known to wander outdoors, and no human cases have been identified, health officials said. The illness was confirmed by the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory in Laramie.

Kaycee is about 90 miles south of Sheridan on Interstate 25.

It’s the third plague-infected cat identified in Wyoming over the past six months. The others were in Sheridan and Campbell counties. Only six human cases of plague have been exposed in Wyoming since 1978, and the last one was investigated in 2008. There is an average of seven human plague cases each year in the United States.

“Plague is a serious bacterial infection that can be deadly for pets and people if not treated as soon as possible with antibiotics,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, a Wyoming state health officer and state epidemiologist in a news release. “The disease can be passed to humans from ill animals and by fleas coming from infected animals. We are letting people know of the potential threat in the cat’s home area as well as across the state.”

Recommended precautions to help prevent plague infection include:

  • Use insect repellent on boots and pants when in areas that might have fleas
  • Use flea repellent on pets, and properly dispose of rodents pets may bring home
  • Avoid unnecessary exposure to rodents
  • Avoid contact with rodent carcasses
  • Avoid areas with unexplained rodent die-offs
  • Plague symptoms in pets can include enlarged lymph glands; swelling in the neck, face or around the ears; fever; chills; lack of energy; coughing; vomiting; diarrhea and dehydration. Ill animals should be taken to a veterinarian.

Plague symptoms in people can include fever, swollen and tender lymph glands, extreme exhaustion, headache, chills, coughing, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. People who are ill should seek professional medical attention.

More information about plague is available from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/plague/

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