Plague: An Age-Old Foe Still Causes Woe

It seems incredible that, with all the advances we’ve made in modern medicine, there are still diseases amidst us that were a threat to our great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents…and even farther back in time.

Case in point: plague. It’s still around, and fleas help spread it. News media recently announced that 16 cases of plague have been reported in the United States this year; the most recent case is an Oregon teenager believed to have contracted the disease during a hunting trip.

While plague is still relatively rare, the disease is still present and is considered to be life-threatening. In recent years (2001 to 2014), an average of seven cases a year are reported with a high of 17 cases and two deaths in 2006.

Any time people come into contact with animals (such as chipmunks, rabbits, squirrels, mice, and prairie dogs) who may carry fleas with the disease, they are at risk.

CDC data indicates that plague is generally confined to two regions in the western United States: northern New Mexico, northern Arizona and southern Colorado; and California, southern Oregon, and far western Nevada. So all those who are camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, or generally just enjoying the great outdoors in many of our wonderful state and national parks could come into contact with the disease.

Plague bacteria are primarily spread by the bite of infected fleas. In rarer instances, septicemic plague can be spread by contact with contaminated fluid or tissue, and pneumonic plague is spread by close contact and inhalation of bacteria-containing droplets spread by an infected person. (Pneumonic plague has not been reported in the U.S. since the mid 1920s but still occurs in developing countries.)

As we’ve said many times here at Pet Health Central, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There are some simple steps recommended by the CDC to avoid becoming a statistic.

We’d like to emphasize the importance of keeping fleas off your pets and out of your environment.

Preventative treatments can include anything from yard sprays and home powders, to the wide variety of squeeze-on preventatives, sprays, collars and dog and cat powders and shampoos that battle these bugs. Depending on your situation, you may need to treat for pests that are already present, or treat to make sure that, if your pet is exposed to fleas the preventative steps you’ve taken will stop the bugs before they ever get a chance to get a blood meal.

We (and our pets) love the great outdoors. But in some areas, the outdoors (and the pests that live there) pose a threat to you and your pet. A few simple steps can keep you both safe and secure!

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