Environmental Health officials from the Coconino County Public Health Department took samples of the fleas from a number of prairie dogs that had died in the Doney Park area of Flagstaff. The fleas came back positive for Yersinia pestis or Bubonic Plague.
Plague is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas. Plague symptoms include enlargement of lymph glands (buboes) near the flea bite and rapid onset of fever and chills. Untreated bubonic plague can progress to infection of the blood, or rarely, the lungs, causing pneumonic plague. All forms of the disease can be fatal if not treated; however, most patients respond well to antibiotic therapy.
Visitors to recreational areas should not feed wild animals, not leave edible trash out where wild animals can get to it, avoid camping or picnicking in the immediate vicinity of ground squirrels or prairie dog burrows, and should avoid taking pets into areas where they could be exposed to fleas. If you must take your pet into areas with fleas, please ensure your pet has appropriate flea control and vaccinations, as recommended by a veterinarian.
Protection with an insect repellant containing DEET is also recommended for persons visiting the area. Insect repellant can help protect people against fleas, mosquitoes, and ticks. Products containing DEET are not safe for use on pets.
Members of the public who see dead animals in recreational areas, or who want more information about precautions should contact the Yavapai County Environmental Health Services at 928-771-3149.
The Yavapai County Community Health Services (YCCHS) is committed to protecting and improving the health of the over 200,000 residents of Yavapai County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, YCCHS oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. For more information and the many services provided by YCCHS visit YavapaiHealth.com