Bubonic plague detected in Bear Creek Lake Park


LAKEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) — As if COVID-19 isn’t enough, health officials in Jefferson County are now issuing a warning to Coloradans about the bubonic plague.

“It’s been one of those years. It’s 2020,” explained Dave Volkel, an Environmental Specialist with Jefferson County Health.

The centuries old bacterial infection has decided 2020 is the year to reemerge. It’s been detected in two prairie dog colonies in Bear Creek Lake Park.

The county first learned of the plague’s presence from visitors who noticed all of the prairie dogs near the park’s visitor center had suddenly vanished.

“They were saying what did you do with the prairie dogs?” Volkel said.

Bubonic plague is transmitted by fleas and can also infect other small mammals. Humans can also get it. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the United States typically sees up to 17 cases in humans every year. Two positive cases have been reported in Colorado this summer.

“It’s flu like symptoms, similar to COVID, with a high temperature,” Volkel said. “If you stay out of the area you’ll be ok.”

Fortunately, the Black Death as it was once known, isn’t so deadly among deadly. It can be treated. However, it’s still dangerous. That’s why park rangers have closed parts of the Owl Trail and the C-470 bike path to try and keep people safe. The county may spray the park to try and eliminate the fleas, but says they may not completely be eradicated until cold weather and freezing temperatures arrive.

“Keep your pets away from there,” Volkel said.

It’s another danger in a year that’s full of them.

“You’re going to have to tell them to check for both COVID and plague if you get sick,” Volkel said.

Just par for the course in 2020.

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