Rare Form of Plague Affects Man in Colorado

First Posted: Jul 14, 2014 09:42 AM EDT

A man in Colorado, U.S., is infected with the deadliest form of plague, an airborne disease.

Jennifer House, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, said this pneumonic plague is the first case reported since 2004. The man is hospitalized and is on treatment long enough for it not to be transmissible.

The infection was transmitted from his dog, who died suddenly. Tests confirmed that the dog carried the disease.

A spokeswoman for the Colorado health department said that "we don't think it's out in our air. We think it's in our dead animal populations and dead rodent populations, " according to  a press report. Generally fleas from the infested animals pass on the disease, the spokeswoman said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this disease occurs when a bacteria "Yersinia pestis" infects the body .They also specified, only about seven people are affected annually.

Tri-County Health Department officials and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are working together to investigate the source of exposure and to identify those who might have come in close contact with the individual. Any individuals exposed are recommended antibiotic treatment.

Doctor says pneumonic plague is not very common but without treatment it can be 90 percent fatal. If the patient is provided with medical treatment within 24 hours of symptoms, it reduces the chance of death.

According to the CDC, symptoms of plague are fever, headache, chest pain, rapid development of pneumonia causing shortness of breath and bloody mucus   

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