Local health officials have found evidence that the plague and
tularemia have been found in dead animals and pets and are alerting
the public to use preventative measures to avoid the diseases.
Two pet cats have been diagnosed with the plague in the past two
weeks, and a woman died from the plague while visiting the Red
Feather Lakes area in August.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have jointly been
working with the Larimer County Department of Health and
Environment in monitoring the plague and other infectious
“Plague has always been endemic to this area,” said LeeAnn
Kempton, an environmental specialist at the health and environment
So far, four feline plague cases have been reported this year.
In 1999, a women died from the plague in the same area that this
year’s human case occurred.
Ann Watson, public information specialist with the health and
environment department, said it is rare to find humans infected
with the plague and said those people that are infected come from
contact with their pets.
“Most of our human cases come from cats. We have had so few
cases it is hard to make generalizations,” Watson said.
Cats and other animals can be infected with the plague when they
kill and eat infected rodents that are riddled with infected fleas.
From that point, pets can transmit the disease to humans through
bites, scratches or droplets from their coughs. The bacteria can
also be transmitted via the infected fleas themselves, which pets
can also bring into domesticated areas.
Bubonic plague, the more common form of the plague, occurs when
extreme pain and swelling of the lymph nodes strikes a victim. The
groin and armpit region are the most common flea bite locations in
humans, according to a press release from the health and
The bubonic plague is not transmitted person-to-person, but it
can spread to the lungs to form pneumonic plague, and the victim’s
close contacts can be infected.
Though the plague may be rare in humans, rodent populations
carry it often, such as in mice or rats, Kempton said.
Another recent bacteria, tularmeria, has been traced in Larimer
County in a dead beaver and mouse. A man from Loveland was struck
with pneumonia caused by tularmeria in August.
Tularmeria is another rare occurrence found in Larimer County
and infects humans who handle infected animals such as rodents or
rabbits or humans who are bit by infected insects, especially ticks
and deer flies.
Tularmeria is a bacterial disease that can affect humans or
animals from insects that have the disease.
Health officials say to take precautions to prevent infections
from these diseases. Using insect repellents, avoiding sick or dead
rodents, keeping pets leashed while camping or hiking, and keeping
close attention to a pet’s health are all preventative
Adrienne LeBaily, the county’s heath department director, said,
“Although these bacteria are potential bioterror agents, we are
convinced that these human cases were naturally occurring.”