Navajo County, Arizona, have issued a public health warning after fleas collected in the county tested positive for the plague. The county made a statement warning residents of the symptoms of bubonic plague, including buboes, fever, and muscle pain.
Fleas collected in Coconino County, Arizona, also tested positive for Yersinia pestis, which causes three forms of the plague in humans. Navajo County asked people to take protective measures if they are in an area where the plague has been found.
"Navajo County Health Department is urging the public to take precautions to reduce their risk of exposure to this serious disease," they wrote on Facebook. "The disease can be transmitted to humans and other animals by the bite of an infected flea or by direct contact with an infected animal."
The county also issued advice on how to avoid contracting the disease and what to do if you suspect you already have it. They ask that you report any incidents of sudden die-offs of rodents, rabbits, or prairie dogs, as this could be an indication of the plague.
County officials say you should see your physician immediately if you become ill with the disease. Symptoms of the plague generally appear within two to six days, Navajo County say. They include:
- muscle pains
- swollen lymph glands (called “buboes”) in the groin, armpits, or limbs.
They warn that the disease can spread throughout the bloodstream and infect the lungs if left untreated, but can be cured with antibiotics if diagnosed and treated early.
The plague is pretty rare in humans in the US, with 96 cases reported between 2000 and 2015. Of these, 12 of the patients died from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So as long as you are careful and seek treatment when you display symptoms, you should be ok, even if you are in one of the areas where the disease has been found.
Navajo County noted that extra precautions should be taken if you live in or visit the area. These include not handling dead animals and keeping your pets from roaming loose, so they don't pick up infected fleas and bring them home.
You should also take care to use insect repellent if you visit areas where the plague has been found and to avoid exposure to rodents when possible.
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