2020 Now Brings The Plague
What’s next? 2020 turns out to be the years of plagues. What’s next? Now, a squirrel tested positive literally for the bubonic plague in Morrison, CO. Unusual in squirrels and far more common in prairie dogs, various ground squirrel species and various rat species; plague caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis is found in rodents and their associated fleas throughout the Western U.S.
Cats are highly susceptible to plague. Dogs are not, though they can pick up and carry plague-infected fleas. Of course, people rarely interact with wild rats but sometime get close to cute prairie dogs or ground squirrels, and of course, dogs and cats are associated with us.
Plague bacteria are most often transmitted by the bite of an infected flea. During plague epizootics, many rodents die, causing hungry fleas to seek other sources of blood. People and animals that visit places where rodents have recently died from plague are at risk of being infected from flea bites. Dogs and cats may also bring plague-infected fleas into the home. Flea bite exposure may result in primary bubonic plague
Plague is infamous for killing millions of people in Europe during the Middle Ages. And back then cats were blamed for the black death. So, cats – who were associated with witchcraft – were killed. Naturally, the rats – who carried the fleas carrying the bacteria causing the plague – proliferated when their primary predator was killed. It took many years for those folks to figure out, the more cats are around the less plague around. There was no real treatment for plague back then. Today, caught early, antibiotics usually defeat the disease. Still, plague can be fatal.