Suspected plague in squirrels near Patty Jewett and Divine Redeemer neighborhoods

Public Health encourages residents to take precautions to prevent exposure 

El Paso County, CO – After multiple squirrels have died of suspected plague in the Patty Jewett and Divine Redeemer neighborhoods, El Paso County Public Health reminds residents that it’s not uncommon for plague to be present this time of year, and taking simple precautions can lower the risk of transmission to humans. 

Test results for the squirrels are currently pending confirmation at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Laboratory, with results anticipated in the coming days.   

“We want to alert people to the fact that wild rodents and other small mammals in this area may be infected with plague, which is more common during cooler summers after wet winters,” said Haley Zachary, communicable disease program manager for El Paso County Public Health. “By taking simple preventive measures, residents can help protect themselves and their pets.” 

Plague is an infectious disease that is most commonly spread to people by the bite of an infected flea but also may be transmitted by infected animal tissues, fluids, or respiratory droplets. People with direct exposure to fleas or wildlife in the affected areas may be at risk. People who think they have been exposed should contact a health care provider immediately. Symptoms include sudden fever, headache, chills, weakness, and tender, painful lymph nodes. While there are no publicly available vaccines to prevent plague in people, if caught early, it can be successfully treated with antibiotics in both people and pets. 

People should take the following precautions to protect themselves and their pets: 

  • Do not directly handle any wildlife 
  • Keep pets away from wildlife, especially dead rodents and rabbits 
  • Don’t let dogs or cats hunt prairie dogs, other rodents, or rabbits 
  • Don’t allow pets to roam freely 
  • Treat all pets for fleas according to a veterinarian’s advice 
  • Do not feed wildlife—this attracts them to your property, brings them in close contact, and increases the risk of disease transmission 
  • Be aware of rodent and rabbit populations in your area and report sudden die-offs or multiple dead animals to El Paso County Public Health at (719) 578-3220. 

For more information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website or El Paso County Public Health’s website.  

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Michelle Hewitt
Public Health Information Officer
(cell) 719-244-1947
El Paso County, CO