The Wyoming Department of Health on Wednesday announced the detection of a rare but serious case of pneumonic plague in a northern Fremont County resident.
The department was tight-lipped about other details except that the individual who contracted the ailment had contact with sick cats.
Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer, said while the risk for humans to contract plague is very low in Wyoming, the disease has been documented throughout the state in domestic and wild animals.
“It’s safe to assume that the risk for plague exists all around our state,” Harrist said. “While the disease is rare in humans, it is important for people to take precautions to reduce exposure and to seek prompt medical care if symptoms consistent with plague develop.”
An outbreak of pneumonic plague was reported earlier this month in Madagascar. Seven individuals are reported dead and another 22 are hospitalized.
The last large outbreak of pneumonic plague in the country occurred in 2017 and infected more than 2,400 people and killed more than 200.
Plague is a bacterial infection that can be deadly to humans and other mammals, including pets, if not treated promptly with antibiotics. This disease can be transmitted to humans from sick animals or by fleas coming from infected animals.
Pneumonic plague is the most serious form and is the only form that can be spread from person to person. Pneumonic plague can develop from inhaling infectious droplets or may develop from untreated bubonic or septicemic plague.
Plague can also be transmitted from person to person through close contact with someone who has pneumonic plague. Individuals with a known exposure to plague require post-exposure treatment with antibiotics to help prevent illness.
This human plague case is the seventh thought to be acquired in Wyoming since 1978. Other recorded Wyoming cases include a 1978 out-of-state case acquired in Washakie County, a 1982 Laramie County case, a 1992 Sheridan County case that resulted in death, a 2000 Washakie County case, a 2004 out-of-state case acquired in Goshen County, and a 2008 out-of-state case acquired in Teton County.