Plague Found In Third Area Of Southwest Idaho

Jun 19, 2015

Credit Evan James hymo/Wikipedia

Health officials say a third area in southwestern Idaho has rodents that are likely infected with plague.

Laurie Boston with the Southwest District Health Department says six voles and one wild mouse from the Riddle area were tested. One vole showed probable plague infection.

Riddle is 79 miles south of Mountain Home. The vole was found along Highway 51 in southern Owyhee County.

On Monday, officials said there were voles with possible plague west of Caldwell. That followed an announcement last month that ground squirrels south of Boise, and one pet dog, tested positive for plague. However, Boston says the three incidents are not thought to be related.

“So far we’ve had three distinct areas but none of them are connected,” says Boston. “Plague is a bacterial disease of mammals and it is naturally occurring bacterium in Idaho’s rodent population. For some reason it’s just more serious this year.”

The outbreak near Riddle was found by Idaho Fish and Game after someone reported a die-off of animals.

“If you see a number of dead or sick voles, contact Fish and Game,” says Boston.

But don’t touch the animals. The disease can be spread by flea bites or by direct contact with infected animals. Boston says if you must move a dead rodent, wear gloves or use a shovel. And take precautions for yourself and your pets.

Rodents that can be infected with plague include mice, rats, voles, chipmunks, yellow-bellied marmots (rock chucks) and ground squirrels (whistle pigs). Tree squirrels in Idaho are not known to carry plague.

Since 1940, Idaho has reported only five human cases of plague.

Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio

Copyright 2015 Boise State Public Radio