No plague cases in people, but public health officials still urge precautions

Plague continues to be a concern in the desert south of Boise, but public health officials are reporting no cases in people and just one domestic dog that is recovering with treatment after it likely contracted the disease.

Even so, precautions are necessary for people who live or recreate in the affected area. 

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Use DEET on clothing in accordance with label instructions or wear clothing pre-treated with permethrin.
  • Use DEET on exposed skin, in accordance with label instructions.
  • See your doctor about any unexplained illness with a severe fever if you have been in the affected area.
  • Avoid picking up or touching dead animals; wear gloves if you must handle dead animals.
  • Do not let pets sleep in bed with you. This has been shown to increase your risk of getting plague.
  • Do not let your pets hunt or roam in the affected area.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product on your pets.
  • Clean up areas near the house where rodents could live, such as woodpiles, brush piles, junk and abandoned vehicles.
  • Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian.
  • Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home.
  • Don’t leave your pet’s food and water where rodents can get to it.

Symptoms of plague in people include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, and weakness. In most cases there is a painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck areas.

Plague symptoms in cats and dogs are fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. There may be a swelling in the lymph node under the jaw. Cats tend to have more severe illness than dogs.

With immediate diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment, the fatality rate in people and pets can be greatly reduced. Doctors and veterinarians who suspect plague should promptly report it to their local public health districts.

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