Squirrel in Golden tests positive for bubonic plague

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GOLDEN, Colo. -- Despite at least one squirrel testing positive for the bubonic plague in Golden, Jefferson County Public Health officials have decided not to cancel Buffalo Bill Days, the town's biggest summer celebration.

"Plague is difficult to catch and we felt any potential exposure would by very, very low," said Craig Sanders, an Environmental Health Program supervisor at Jefferson County Public Health. "We're assuming that it (bubonic plague) is probably present in the tree squirrels in the downtown area of Golden."

Jefferson County Public Health received confirmation on Friday that a squirrel located at 15th and Jackson tested positive for bubonic plague. Postings are being placed around the area today with information reminding citizens to take simple precautions to avoid exposure.

Plague is a highly infectious bacterial disease carried by various types of wild rodents and is transmitted primarily by flea bites. Squirrels, rodents, prairie dogs and other mammals, such as rabbits and cats are susceptible to plague because they carry fleas.

When plague appears in an area, there is usually a die-off of the rodents and rabbits. When the animal dies, the fleas leave to find another host thus spreading the disease. Most human plague cases result from infected flea bites.

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