Colorado's intense fight over oil and gas setbacks could set national precedent

A prairie dog scampers in a field located near the Pratt oil and gas wells in Weld County near Erie on Feb. 7. The well facility, operated by Crestone Peak Resources, is located near a residential neighborhood and was the subject of some of the 1,000-plus complaints filed by the public throughout 2017. (Photo by Andy Colwell for Colorado Politics)

Plague has been detected in animals in six Colorado counties, the state health department said Thursday.

Officials expect to find plague in infected fleas in the summer, Jennifer House, the public health veterinarian for the state Department of Public Health and Environment said in a statement. Infected fleas can lead to infected wildlife, and, in rare situations, to humans. Though expected, the summertime phenomenon is getting extra messaging attention from the state after a 10-year-old in LaPlata County died of plague earlier this month. It was the first human plague death in Colorado since 2015, officials said.

Testing has confirmed that there are fleas infected with plague in LaPlata County, the health department said.

The health department wrote that the disease is frequently detected in rodents, and particularly prairie dogs. A noticeable decrease in rodent activity can indicate the presence of plague. Pets can also be infected; the department advised keeping pets on leashes and using "veterinary-approved flea control products" to protect household animals.

Humans can avoid plague by:

  • avoiding fleas and wild rodents;
  • avoiding sick or dead animals;
  • clean plants and materials from outside walls, limiting food access and setting traps to prevent rodent infestations near your home; and
  • contact your vet if your pet becomes ill.
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