Plague identified in Bailey County, no local risk to Lubbock

Plague identified in Bailey County, no local risk to Lubbock

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Plague was recently identified in the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge near Muleshoe, Texas. This has prompted the temporary closure of part of the refuge, but refuge management expects the outbreak to pass fairly soon. Here in Lubbock, there is no local risk of plague.

Plague is transmitted from animal to animal and from animal to human by the bites of infected flees. When a prairie dog colony becomes less active, it is typical to test fleas for disease. This is done by collecting fleas and sending them to the lab for analysis. If a human or domesticated animal entered the area, there is a chance they could have been bitten by an infected flea and develop plague. If you traveled to this area and you or a pet was exposed, it is important to contact your doctor or veterinarian.

Plague is widespread in the western US. There have been no human cases in Lubbock. There are records going back to 1976 of animals from Lubbock being tested, and none have tested positive. If the City of Lubbock Health Department (COLHD) were to identify a die off at a prairie dog colony, the department would cordon off the area and then collect fleas to send to a laboratory for testing. The COLHD would then notify the public and medical community that there may have been some exposure. Plague is also a reportable disease; if a human case was identified, the COLHD would work to identify places where the person may have been exposed and then work backward to identify the source.

Plague can be treated, but it is important for someone who is infected to have prompt medical treatment. If your pets have access to a prairie dog colony, it is important that you speak with your veterinarian about using a high quality flea control. If a once active prairie dog colony is no longer busy, it is best to stay away and notify the COLHD. Remember don’t pick up sick or dying animals.

More information about the plague, including symptoms and treatment, is available on the CDC website.

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