Her death is the first to be attributed to the plague in Colorado since 2015. She passed away earlier this month.
CBS 4 Denver reported that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment identified plague in Huerfano, Adams, San Miguel, El Paso, Boulder and La Plata counties.
The plague is generally carried by fleas, though how exactly the girl came to be infected is still under investigation.
“We are so sad for the loss of this young Coloradan and our deepest condolences go to the family,” Dr Jennifer House, Colorado state veterinarian, told the Associated Press.
She urged residents to pay attention to symptoms and seek medical help if they believe they might have the plague.
“[Denver] Public Health is doing an epidemiological investigation and wants Coloradans to know that while this disease is very rare, it does occur sometimes, and to seek medical care if you have symptoms,” she said.
Four people died of the plague in 2015, with half of that number coming from Colorado.
According to Denver Public Health, the plague can be treated relatively easily with antibiotics, but those drugs are most effective when given within 24 hours of a patient first experiencing symptoms. After that, the infection can begin to cause serious illness or death.
Identifying the symptoms can be difficult, as the early plague symptoms are very similar to those of other illnesses, like the flu or a mild case of the coronavirus. The symptoms include fever, chills, headache, coughing and feeling weak.
While the plague spreading to a human and killing them is rare in the US, it is more common in animals. Between 2005 and 2021, there were nearly 570 cases of animals infected with the plague in Colorado, including 104 cats and dogs.
It was animals – with the help of humans – that initially brought the plague to the US. Steamships traveling between countries in the early 1900s were sometimes infested with rats. Some of those rats carried plague, and began breeding in the US after escaping the ships.
The majority of US plague cases are in the rural West, specifically Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah.
The plague is most active during the summer, but can be found present in rodents year-round.
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