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Plague in the USA: Colorado

28 Sep 2023

Public health officials in Colorado reported a fatal case of plague in Archuleta County on 25 September 2023. It is not known how the person became infected. This was the second case of plague in Colorado this year. The first was reported in Montezuma County in June 2023.

Plague is a severe bacterial infection which spreads to humans mainly by the bite of infected fleas, or from having close contact with infected animals or people.

Advice to Travellers

Plague is rare in travellers to the USA. The risk is highest if you participate in activities which may bring you into close contact with local wildlife, particularly rats or other rodents including prairie dogs. Activities which may increase this risk include:

  • camping, or staying in very basic rural accommodation
  • walking, hiking or working outdoors
  • hunting or participating in activities which involve close contact with wildlife
  • caring for a sick person who may be infected with pneumonic plague: this spreads from person to person through inhaling droplets caused by them coughing or sneezing, or by touching their infected body fluids

No vaccine is available for plague. To reduce your risk of exposure, you should:

  • practice good insect bite avoidance measures: insect repellents should protect you against flea bites
  • avoid any close contact with sick or dead animals
  • avoid crowded areas in regions where plague has recently been reported
  • seek prompt medical attention if you develop a high temperature (fever) or other 'flu-like' symptoms and there is a risk you may have been exposed to plague