July 15, 2014
Exterminating Prairie Dogs Will Not End Plague
It is still unclear what caused a Colorado man to contract the plague. This disease can be carried to humans through fleas leaving dead animals, so exterminating prairie dogs will not end exposure to the plague. Lindsey Sterling-Krank, director of the Prairie Dog Coalition for The Humane Society of the United States, issued the following statement:
"Our thoughts are with the Adams County resident who became ill and lost his dog to the same disease. But getting rid of prairie dogs isn’t going to get rid of the sylvatic plague that has lived in the United States since the early 1900s.”
The following precautions are recommended in avoiding this disease:
- Large-scale rodent extermination, such as poisoning entire prairie dog colonies, is not recommended by the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment as an effective means of plague control.
- Dusting rodent burrows with insecticide powder to kill fleas is effective in controlling plague in relatively small areas that have high human use such as a colony bordering a park, open space or subdivision. In these cases, a 100-foot buffer zone of burrows can be treated with insecticide dust and the areas posted to advise people and pets to stay out of the colony.
- Avoid contact with all sick and dead rodents and rabbits. Report any die offs involving multiple rodents (as opposed to a single dead animal) or the sudden disappearance of a prairie dog colony to local or state health departments.
- Keep cats and dogs out of prairie dog colonies; this will continue to decrease the low number of human cases of the plague linked to prairie dogs. Pets that live or visit rural areas should be treated for fleas according to your veterinarian’s recommendations.
- Do not feed or entice any rodent or rabbit species into your yard, back porch, or patio.
- Eliminate rodent habitat, such as piles of lumber, broken cement, trash and weeds around your home or cabin.
- While hiking, treat pants, socks, shoe tops, arms and legs with insect repellants.
- Remember the incubation period of 2-6 days and consult a physician if sudden unexplained illness occurs within that period after activities in the outdoors.
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