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Plague-Infected Prairie Dogs Shut Down Parts of Denver Suburb




 Black-tailed prairie dogs peer out of their burrow on July 28, 2002 at the National Zoo in Washington, DC (Credit: ROBYN BECK / AFP / Getty Images)

Black-tailed prairie dogs peer out of their burrow on July 28, 2002 at the National Zoo in Washington, DC (Credit: ROBYN BECK / AFP / Getty Images)

Prairie dogs infected with the plague – yes, the pla gue – have shut down parts of a city and wildlife area near Denver this summer.

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Sections were closed in late July as a precautionary measure after the discovery of the disease, US Fish and Wildlife Service said.

Unaffected refugee areas reopened Saturday, but other locations in Commerce City, and suburb north of Denver, will remain closed until Labor Day weekend, the Tri-County Health Department said.

“The prairie dog colonies are being monitored and burrows are being treated with insecticide, but there are still records of fleas in hiking and camping areas that could put people and pets at risk, so those areas will remain closed, ”said John M. Douglas, Jr., The Executive Director of the Tri-County Health Department.

No human infections have been reported, he said.

Despite its name and fatal history in the Middle Ages, the plague is rare and generally treatable, at least in th

The plague is caused by Yersinia pestis bacteria and is fairly common in the rural western US, including Colorado, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On average, seven human plague cases have been reported each year in recent decades, according to the CDC.

In general, small mammals and rodents with infected fleas carry the disease, which can spread to pets or humans by flea bites or contact

More than 80% of US cases had the bubonic form. Untreated bubonic plague can turn into more serious pneumonic plague, which causes rapidly developing pneumonia after bacteria spread to the lungs.

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