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An unnamed girl from La Plata County, Colorado, has died “from causes associated with plague”, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a press release on Thursday. This follows confirmed reports of plague in animals and fleas from six countries, including La Plata County.
In La Plata, testing confirmed the presence of the plague in fleas collected in the area.
These instances caused the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to launch an investigation into a possible outbreak of the plague.
The plague is a bacterial disease and it is transmissible to humans from animals.
This can happen through bites of infected fleas or infected animals, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
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In a statement Jennifer House, Deputy State Epidemiologist and Public Health Veterinarian for CDPHE, said: “In Colorado, we expect to have fleas test positive for plague during the summer months.
“Awareness and precautions can help prevent the disease in people.
“While it’s rare for people to contract plague, we want to make sure everyone knows the symptoms. The disease is treatable if caught early.”
Symptoms include “sudden on-set of high fever and/or swollen lymph nodes,” CDPHE said.
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Unlike in the Middle Ages, when the plague took the lives of tens of millions, in modern times the disease can be treated with antibiotics if it is diagnosed early enough.
The plague was first brought to the US in 1900 by rat-infested ships which caused epidemics to erupt in port cities.
The last plague epidemic in the US occurred in Los Angeles from 1924 to 1925.
The bacterial virus then spread from urban rats to rural rodents and the plague now occurs in rare cases in rural areas, according to CDC.
Most human cases in the US appear in Northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, southern Colorado, California, southern Oregon and far western Nevada.
In recent times few cases have been reported – one to 17 cases per year.
It affects all age groups, however, people aged 12 to 15 account for 50 percent of cases.
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