The same “black plague that once killed 60% of all europe is found in yet another cat.
A house cat in Wyoming was recently diagnosed with bubonic plague; it is now the third feline in the state found to have contracted the deadly disease in the past six months.
While the word “plague” conjures images of epidemics wiping out medieval communities in their entirety, the bacterial infection actually occurs naturally in wild rodents (and their fleas) in the western U.S. and rarely affects people, according to local health officials.
The cat, named Kaycee, was “known to wander outdoors,” representatives with the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) said on Jan. 4. Kaycee’s roaming habits likely exposed it to an animal that was already infected with the plague-causing bacterium Yersinia pestis, which is typically transmitted between animals through flea bites, according to the Centers for disease control and prevention (CDC).
Once called “the Black Death” and “the great pestilence,” plague emerged from Asia and decimated Europe during the 14th century, wiping out an estimated 33 percent to 50 percent of the population. Plague then traveled to North America and Australia in 1900, and today, plague is found on every continent except Antarctica,
There are, on average, seven cases of plague in people each year in the U.S., and the death rate is 11 percent, the CDC says. The infection is curable with antibiotics if caught early.
Animals infected with bubonic plague may experience swelling in the neck and face area, fever, lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea, WDH representatives said. Symptoms are similar in people.
Humans can becomeinfected through contact with sick animals or through bites from infected fleas, Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said in the statement. Now that a third infected cat has been identified, Wyoming officials are taking steps to make sure that people stay safe, according to Harrist.
“We are letting people know of the potential threat in the cat’s home area as well as across the state,” she said.
Precautions recommended by WDH include applying flea repellent to pets, and to boots and pants when visiting places that might house fleas. Wild rodents — dead or alive — should be avoided, as well as any location where large numbers of rodents have died suddenly, according to the WDH.
The Yersinia bacterium is transmitted to cats when an infected flea bites them, or when they ingest an infected rodent. It is more common for a cat to become infected after eating a rodent than it is for the cat to acquire this disease through a fleabite.
Another possible cause for exposure could come from the animal’s environment. If the home is heavily infested with fleas, or if the homeowner resides near a wildlife habitat, where the animal is exposed to rodents, this could put the animal at a higher risk of contracting the plague. Garbage, woodpiles, and food sources can also be outlets for transmission of this disease.
TYT Newsroom with information from: www.petmd.com