Cat with Plague is No Threat to Humans
A cat in western Nebraska likely has a case of the plague, but state health officials say there's little risk of it spreading to people.
Dr. Jerry Upp, the Gering veterinarian treating the cat, said it's the same disease as the Black Death of the Middle Ages but not quite as worrisome these days.
Advances in medicines, sanitation and living conditions have made the plague a much less fatal disease than it was in the Middle Ages.
We don't want to scare people, but just let them know it's out there, Upp said Thursday.
The diseased cat, from northeast Scotts Bluff County, was taken to Gering's Midtown Animal Hospital last week.
The cat had large abscesses and swelling around the neck and throat, both signs of plague. Some test results were positive and some were negative, so the disease likely was in the early stages, Upp said.
Two years ago, Upp treated a cat with what officials said was Nebraska's only other known case of the plague in recent years.
There's very little risk that humans will contract the disease, but people should be aware it still exists, said Dr. Annette Bredehauer, state public health veterinarian.
The plague is still with us, but we do have antibiotics now which we didn't have (during the Middle Ages), so it's not as serious of a disease as it once was, she said.
Bredehauer said she is not aware of any human cases in Nebraska.
The plague is a disease of rodents transmitted by fleas. Prairie dogs often carry it.
Health officials urge the public to take precautions and be aware of the risks of interacting with rodents and handling dead rodents. They also encourage people to treat pets for fleas.
It hasn't been eradicated, but the living conditions are better, so that's one of the reasons we just don't see it as much, said Bill Wineman, Scotts Bluff County Health Department director.
Wyoming sees a few cases of plague in animals every year.
Clay Vanhouten, chief of infectious disease with the Wyoming Department of Health, said there have been six human cases reported in the state since 1978. One person died.
So far this year, Vanhouten said, two cases have been reported, in a mountain lion and a house cat.
He said people should protect themselves from flea bites by wearing bug spray when outdoors and taking pets to the veterinarian if they act peculiarly.
In Gering, Upp, the cat's owners and veterinary staffers who came in contact with the cat have taken antibiotics as a precaution.
People are put on antibiotics just to be on the safe side, Upp said. (The plague) is easily preventable if it's caught early.
He said the cat has been treated in an isolation ward, is doing fine and should go home Friday.
[Source: Omaha (Neb.) World-Herald]