One week after a case of pneumonic plague surfaced in Colorado, three more cases of the plague turned up, two of them pneumonic plague and one a milder form of the disease. It was suspected that the original case plus the three others were transmitted through a dog, which has since died.
The man who suffered the initial case was hospitalized and was determined to have the worst case of plague in at least ten years. There have been 12 cases of plague reported in the state in that time, and 60 cases reported in the state since 1957. Of the 60 cases, 9 victims have died.
The three new cases were treated with antibiotics and are not contagious. Jennifer House, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, told Bloomberg that officials suspect the dog that transmitted the plague to its owner via plague-infected fleas from a prairie dog or rabbit. She said, “We’ve had quite a number of cases this year. We do believe the outbreak itself to be over.” She added that the state is continuing its investigation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that three western states are the most afflicted by the plague: Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. Seven people across the country contract the disease every year.
Pneumonic plague is the most virulent of the three types because it can be spread through the air by coughing and sneezing; bubonic plague is found under the skin, while septicemic plague is found in the bloodstream.
Jim Siedlecki, director of public information of Adams County, said, “While this is not a daily, weekly, or monthly occurrence, it isn’t without precedence. A case of plague where fleas and prairie dogs are involved isn’t earth shattering for Colorado.”