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12-07-2005, 02:44:59
Plague-Infected Cats Cause Worry in Wyo.

Wyoming Public Health Officials Alarmed After Fourth Cat Diagnosed With Plague
By DAN LEWERENZ Associated Press Writer
The Associated PressThe Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyo. Jul 8, 2005 A local cat was diagnosed with plague Friday the fourth in southern Wyoming this year and public health officials warned that people should take precautions to protect their pets and themselves.

Gus Lopez, director of the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department, said the latest case occurred west of the city, in the same general area where two other cats contracted the disease. A fourth cat, in neighboring Albany County, also was diagnosed with plague.

"Getting four of them in southern Wyoming in a short period of time is unusual," said Ken Gage of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Fort Collins, Colo. "It's not cause for panic, or anything, but it is cause for some concern."

In many parts of the West, plague is endemic in the fleas infesting rodent populations. The disease can jump to other animals, including humans, if they come into contact with infected fleas. Researchers speculate that the infected cats probably caught or ate infected rodents.

Human cases remain extremely rare. A southwest Colorado woman who caught plague from infected fleas is the region's only human case this year. Wyoming has had just five human cases since 1978.

But state health officials also point out that they hadn't recorded any feline cases in more than 20 years.

"I think this is just going to be the tip of the iceberg," Lopez said. "And what really concerns me is these cases with cats right now really increase the risk of human exposure."

That's because handling infected animals is much riskier than simply being exposed to infected fleas. In the five recorded human cases since 1978 in Wyoming, each had handled an infected animal, Gage said.

An infected cat might bring infected fleas into a home; it might also infect people by biting, scratching or coughing.

"That's very, very dangerous, because the disease progresses very rapidly in that situation," Gage said.

Dr. Tracy Murphy, Wyoming's state epidemiologist, said rodent populations appeared to be up in Wyoming and much of the West this year, in part because of increased rain and snow during winter and spring. As rodent populations increase, so does the chance that rodents will infect each other, spreading plague.

Health officials are warning people to avoid contact with rodents or with any sick or dead animals. If such contact is unavoidable, people should wear gloves and insect repellant. Pets or people showing plague symptoms swollen glands, fever, chills, pain and extreme exhaustion should get immediate medical attention.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

12-07-2005, 04:02:45
Rat free, as free as the wind blows
As free as the grass grows