Elmore County Child Recovering From Plague Infection

Jun 13, 2018

In the past, we’ve brought you stories of the plague in cats, dogs and rodents -- mainly ground squirrels. But this year, for the first time in decades, Idaho has reported a case of the disease in humans.

In both 2015 and 2016, there were reports of pets contracting plague in Elmore County after mass die-offs of ground squirrels in the desert south of Boise. But there hasn’t been a human case in the state since 1992. In fact, there have only been five human cases here since 1940.

“It’s important for people to remember we do have it here, we will always have it here and you need to take precautions when you’re out recreating,” says Sarah Correll an epidemiologist with the Central District Health Department. She confirmed this week that a child from Elmore County got the bacterial disease.

“The great news is the child is recovering and received appropriate antibiotic treatment,” says Correll.

The child had recently traveled to Oregon, so it’s unknown whether the patient caught the disease there or in Idaho, since both states have rodents with plague.

“The most likely way that the child was infected is through the bite of an infected flea that was from a rodent,” says Correll.

Signs of plague include a high fever, chills, headache and swollen lymph nodes. Correll says if you’re in an infected area, wear clothes to keep fleas out, don’t touch wild rodents and keep your pets away from ground squirrels and voles. Common tree squirrels are not known to carry plague.

Copyright 2018 Boise State Public Radio