Ada County Dog Tests Positive For Plague, Ground Squirrels Likely The Cause

Jun 4, 2015

A dog in Ada County has tested positive for plague. It’s the first case – human or canine – of the bacterial disease since officials reported an outbreak in ground squirrels south of Boise two weeks ago.

Epidemiologist Sarah Correll is with the Central District Health Department. She says a preliminary test came back positive, which means the dog likely has the plague. Results from a second test will come back next week.

“The dog had been in the affected area, out near Pleasant Valley Road. It was roaming freely and did have contact with the ground squirrels,” says Correll.

When the domesticated animal became ill and started running a high fever, its owner took it to a local veterinary clinic. They suspected plague and had the dog tested. The canine was put on antibiotics and is feeling better.

Correll says now the concern has turned to people the dog came into contact with, so the owner and clinic workers are being evaluated for possible exposure to the disease.

“So some people will be starting an antibiotic to prevent themselves from becoming ill," says Correl. "But those are determined on a case-by-case basis and you do have to have close contact with the infected animal.”

Officials are asking people and their pets, to stay away from the infected area south of Boise to the Snake River and from Kuna to Mountain Home.

“We want to remind people to not let their animals touch a ground squirrel, dead or alive,” says Correll. “Prevent them from roaming freely in the affected area, because it’s very likely that they may come into contact with a ground squirrel.”

Plague is a bacterial disease of rodents. It can be passed to humans through the bite of an infected flea or close contact with an infected animal.

Last month, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game found a large number of dead ground squirrels in the infected area. The threat of the disease will go down, once the animals begin to hibernate in late June or early July. The plague has only been found in ground squirrels, not tree squirrels.

You can see a map of the infected area here.

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