Thursday, August 25, 2005
SACRAMENTO - Four house cats have tested positive for the plague, California health officials said, prompting a warning to cat owners to keep their pets away from wild rodents.
Three of the infected cats were found in Kern County and the fourth was in Placer County. One of the Kern County cats survived, but the rest were euthanized.
"People who handle or have close contact with an infected cat risk getting plague," said Dr. Howard Backer, the state's interim public health officer.
It is rare for humans to contract plague through exposure to cats, state health officials say. Since 1977, 23 human plague cases associated with infected house cats were reported in the United States - four in California.
Two California victims died - an El Dorado County resident in 1980 and a Kern County resident in 1984. The most recent California case was in August 1997, and that victim survived.
Plague is an infectious bacterial disease that is spread by fleas carried by wild rodents. Cats can become infected by hunting or consuming an animal that carries plague.
"The most important step pet owners can take to protect their cats and themselves from getting plague is to prevent their cats from hunting wild rodents," Backer said.
House cats should be kept indoors if possible and should be supervised or leashed when allowed outside, health officials said. Cats should also be monitored for plague symptoms, including fever, swollen lymph nodes or respiratory problems such as sneezing or coughing.
State health officials said there is no sign of an increase in plague infections. The fact that four infected cats from two widely separated counties were discovered in a brief period merited a warning.
Plague also has been detected in animals in nine other California counties this year - Alpine, Butte, Glenn, Lassen, Modoc, Monterey, Nevada, Plumas and Sierra - although none of those cases involved pets.
It used to be that only Marin County had an endemic plague area in California, there's in the area of Albuquerque some plague.
I now wonder if the very wet Spring they had upped the numbers of rodents sufficiently to cause this spread of plague?
Now I think I ought to check about New Mexico just out of curiosity. Oh for those of you in Rio Del, Kuga is the word in B/H/S for plague.