Health Officials: Mystery illness that killed Poudre H.S. student was the plague

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Taylor Gaes, a Poudre High School quarterback and pitcher, died suddenly on Monday, June 9, 2015. (Photo: GoFundMe)

FT. COLLINS, Colo. — A 16-year-old who died from a mystery illness this month was found to have the Septicemic plague, according to Larimer County Health Officials.

The Poudre High School student, Taylor Gaes, was believed to have contacted the plague from fleas on a dead rodent or other animal in the Cherokee Park area.  Gaes’ family has land there, near Livermore.

Septicemic plague occurs when bacteria enters the bloodstream directly, the health department said in a statement.  This infection is highly fatal unless treated promptly.

Health Officials warned people who attended the spreading of his ashes on the families ranch to be extra aware of flu-like symptoms.

“There is a small chance that others might have been bitten by infected fleas, so anyone who was on the family’s land in the last seven days should seek medical attention immediately if a fever occurs.” Larimer health officials said in a statement.

If a fever or other symptoms occur, officials urge anyone to see a physician right away.  The last exposure to others was likely on June 14.

This case was believed to be the first Larimer County resident to have contracted the disease since 1999.

The Gaes family had raised more than $15,000 on a GoFund Me page as of Saturday morning.

Tips to Prevent Plague from Larimer County Health Department

  • Avoid contact with all sick and dead rodents and rabbits. Look for the presence of blow flies or dead animal smell as evidence of animal die-offs. Prairie dog colonies that suddenly are not active may also be due to plague activity in the area. Report such die-offs to Larimer County Health Department.
  • While hiking, treat pants, socks, shoe tops, arms and legs with insect repellents.
  • Keep your pets from roaming and hunting and talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product.
  • Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian.
  • If you hunt or trap rabbits or carnivorous wild animals, wear gloves and a respiratory mask while skinning or handling these animals. Fresh pelts may be treated with flea powder.
  • Bites from wild carnivores and from cats and dogs have caused human plague. Such animals may be infected, carry the bacteria in their mouths or may transport infective fleas. If you are bitten, follow-up with your health care provider.
  • DO NOT feed or entice any rodent or rabbit species into your yard, back porch, or patio.
  • Eliminate rodent habitat, such as piles of lumber, broken cement, trash and weeds around your home, outbuildings and cabins.
  • When outdoors, minimize exposure in rodent-infested areas. Do not catch, play with, or attempt to hand feed wild rodents.

For more information about the plague, visit the CDC’s website.

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