Spring is plague awareness season in S. Idaho – protect yourself & your pets!

pLAGUEgRAPHICSpring recreation in Idaho is not too far off – and on some chilly days, it may feel farther off than we want! – but if you are getting ready to get out into the southern Idaho desert, remember spring is also the time to be aware of the potential for plague. Plague is dangerous to people and pets, but with proper awareness, precautions, and treatment when needed, plague should not discourage you from enjoying the Idaho outdoors. Continue reading


Listen up, Idaho: It’s plague awareness season!

Spring is a good time of year to enjoy the desert – it’s warm but not too hot when other parts of the state are still encased in snow. Birds are flying, lizards are sunning themselves, and ground squirrels and other animals are becoming more active. It’s a tempting respite from winter for Idahoans and our four-legged companions as spring settles in.

However, the desert in southern Idaho also contains rodents that might carry the fleas that carry the plague bacteria.  Plague can cause serious illness in people and pets if it’s not treated quickly.  It’s important to brush up on your knowledge of this deadly disease now so you can take precautions if you’re planning to spend time in the desert; particularly from March through July when ground squirrels are most active. Idaho has had no confirmed reports of plague so far this year, but the deadly disease was found in Idaho ground squirrels in 2015 and 2016.

Ground squirrel

Rodents that can become infected include ground squirrels (pictured), rats, and mice, and they readily die from the infection. Tree squirrels in Idaho are not known to carry plague. Continue reading

A second cat in Elmore County has likely died from plague

Preliminary laboratory tests indicate a second cat from Elmore County likely died of plague. This is the second cat death within the last week thought to be connected to the bacterial infection, though the cats were owned by separate families.

The most recent cat lived both indoors and outdoors and had contact with ground squirrels before becoming ill. Family members and other household pets are being monitored to ensure the cat did not spread the infection. Final lab results will be available next week. Read the full release here.

Elmore County Cat Likely Died from Plague

Central District Health Department issued a news release this afternoon advising people to take precautions with their pets in desert areas that may contain rodents carrying the plague. Preliminary lab results of a pet cat that died in Elmore County show probable infection with the plague bacteria.

The state reported die-offs of ground squirrels, often referred to as whistle pigs, from plague last week. Plague is transmitted through the bite of fleas and can cause serious illness to people and pets if not treated quickly.

To read the Central District Health Department’s news release, please click here

Plague Suspected in Treasure Valley Ground Squirrel Deaths

Preliminary tests of ground squirrels (whistle pigs) found dead in desert areas of Ada and Elmore counties have come back positive for plague.  Idaho public health and Idaho Fish and Game officials are asking people to take precautions as outdoor summer activities shift into high gear over the long Memorial Day weekend.

Ground squirrelLast year, plague was confirmed in ground squirrels in the same general areas of southern Idaho (see map below). It can circulate in wild animal populations every year. Confirmatory laboratory tests are being conducted, with results expected next week.

Plague is a bacterial disease of rodents that is transmitted through the bites of infected fleas and can cause serious illness to people and pets if not treated quickly. Continue reading

Possible plague in Owyhee County

Testing of a vole (commonly called “meadow mouse”) from a die-off of rodents in the Riddle, Idaho area along Highway 51 in southern Owyhee County indicates possible plague. The public is urged to take precautions and report groups of dead rodents as this investigation continues. To date, no human cases of plague have been reported.

A vole. Photo by Evan James hymo/Wikipedia

A vole. Photo by Evan James hymo/Wikipedia

In May, ground squirrels in Ada County southeast of Boise tested positive for plague, and one dog, which had contact with the ground squirrels, tested likely positive for plague. Late last week, possible plague in voles was reported in an area near Highway 19, immediately west of Caldwell. Idaho Department of Fish and Game and public health officials do not believe there is any connection between these three distinct areas. Continue reading