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THE PLAGUE IS BACK: An Idaho child contracted the plague a month ago and now a cat has become infected with the potentially deadly disease

June 27, 2018 GMT

An Idaho child contracted the plague about a month ago, and now state health officials said a cat has been infected by the potentially deadly disease.

According to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, a cat that had recently been in contact with a rodent in Elmore County was confirmed to have been infected with plague.

The cat was treated by a veterinarian and is currently recovering.

Health officials believe the rodent in question was a ground squirrel, and though there have been no squirrel die-offs this year, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said the cat that was infected lived in an area of south Idaho that was identified as a plague-affected area.

Two years ago, six cats — mostly from the Mountain Home area — tested positive for plague, while one dog tested presumptive-positive a year earlier. In both 2015 and 2016, there were multiple squirrel die-offs in the area south of the Boise Airport and around Mountain Home.

Late last month, a child in Elmore County was also diagnosed with plague. This was the first human case in the Gem State since 1992.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said the child was treated for the illness and is currently recovering. Officials are still trying to determine whether the child contracted the disease in Idaho or during a recent trip to Oregon.

State health officials said plague is transmitted through the bite of infected fleas or through direct contact with infected animals, including rodents, rabbits and pets.

Symptoms of plague in humans include fever, chills, headaches and physical weakness. In most cases, there is a painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck. Symptoms in dogs and cats include fever, loss of appetite, lethargy and a swelling in the lymph node under the jaw.

“It is important to take precautions to avoid contact with ground squirrels and their fleas,” said Dr. Leslie Tengelsen, Idaho State Public Health veterinarian, in a news release. “Make sure your pets have proper flea control and keep them away from ground squirrel habitat, if possible.”