Wyoming health officials this week confirmed that case of plague was found in a cat in Sheridan County.

No human cases have been identified in the area, according to Wyoming Department of Health spokesperson Kim Deti.

The cat's home is located in Big Horn, and the animal is known to wander outdoors in the area. The Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory in Laramie confirmed the illness earlier this week, Deti said in a statement.

“Plague is a serious bacterial infection that can be deadly for pets and for people if not treated as soon as possible with antibiotics,” said Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH. “The disease can be transmitted to humans from ill animals and by fleas coming from infected animals. We want people to know of the potential threat in the cat’s home area as well as across the state.”

“While the disease is rare in humans, we assume the risk for plague exists all around Wyoming,” Harrist said.

Since 1978, six human cases of plague have been found in Wyoming, with the most recent case investigated in 2008. Across the U.S. each year, an average of seven human cases are reported.

The health department recommends a number of precautions to prevent plague infection:

  • Use insect repellent on boots and pants when in areas that might have fleas;
  • Use flea repellent on pets, and properly dispose of any rodents that pets may bring home;
  • Avoid unnecessary exposure to rodents;
  • Avoid contact with rodent carcasses;
  • Avoid areas with unexplained rodent die-offs.

In pets, symptoms can include enlarged lymph glands; swelling in the neck, face or around the ears; fever; chills; lack of energy; coughing; vomiting; diarrhea and dehydration. Ill animals should be taken to a veterinarian.

In humans, symptoms can include fever, swollen and tender lymph glands, extreme exhaustion, headache, chills, coughing, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea. Professional medical attention should be sought by anyone who becomes ill.

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