Mar 032010
Authors: Aaron Hedge, Kirsten Silveira

Editor’s note: PVM stands for professional veterinary medicine.

CSU’s veterinary medicine program is planning to require students to purchase health care after several students came into contact with the carcass of a mountain lion that had died of plague last semester, a university official said Wednesday.

“The college is now looking at putting a system in place to require health insurance for future PVM students so that financial concerns are not a reason for a student to avoid immediately receiving important medical treatment in a situation such as this,” said university spokesperson Dell Rae Moellenberg in an e-mail message.

The university is also requiring students and employees to use more care when performing routine necropsies as a result of the incident.

CSU advised about a dozen employees and veterinary medicine students to seek medical attention after they found evidence of the deadly disease in the mountain lion on Nov. 17 during a routine examination of the body, Moellenberg said.

No one involved was diagnosed with plague.

She said it is rare for students to perform necropsies on animals that have plague, so, as a precaution, the university told those involved in the case to visit Poudre Valley Hospital.

University employees in theDiagnostic Medical Center, which is where the students examined the animal, frequently work with state wildlife officials to examine wild animals with infectious diseases.

She said it is possible for humans to contract the disease when they come into contact with animals that died of it.

“Domestic pets –– such as cats and dogs –– that are allowed outdoors may become exposed to the plague and become ill and, if examined by a veterinarian, the veterinarian could also easily become exposed, as could the pet’s owners,” she said.

CSU doesn’t normally pay for medical costs students incur as a result of a veterinary training incident, but plans to in this case, Moellenberg said in the e-mail, because of “a misunderstanding about that policy when this incident occurred.”

“To uphold our commitment, the university is working with Poudre Valley Hospital and those exposed so that invoices for charges from this incident that are not covered by insurance are routed to the university for payment,” she wrote. “University funding has already been allocated and approved to pay these bills.”

Moellenberg said upon initial examination, it didn’t appear that the mountain lion had died of plague, but as the necropsy progressed, the investigators found signs of the disease.

The plague is said to have killed between 30 and 60 percent of Europe’s population at the beginning of the 15th Century.

Large wild animals do not commonly die of plague in Colorado; the illness is found more often in small animals like prairie dogs.

“… our veterinarians are aware of a couple of cases a year,” Moellenberg said.
She said the incident sparked conversations in the veterinary community at CSU about better methods to deal with students in the department who might not have insurance and come into contact with animals with infectious diseases as part of their studies.

Moellenberg was not immediately able to find the total amount the university will spend on the medical costs.

Projects Editor Aaron Hedge and Senior Reporter Kirsten Silveira can be reached at

More about the situation with the PVM
-About a dozen
-Number of students and staff in contact with mountain lion said to be infected with plague
CSU paying for medical bills
PVM planning to require student to buy health insurance

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