Plague-infested prairie dogs lead to continued closures of Commerce City open spaces

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COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Several Commerce City outdoor locations, including First Creek at DEN Open Space, have been closed due to plague-infected fleas affecting prairie dogs, and will remain closed as officials work to treat the areas.

Officials are working to treat prairie dogs’ holes with insecticide to kill the fleas that transmit the disease to prairie dogs, people, and pets, according to a news release from the Tri-County Health Department.

Access to the following locations has been restricted, according to the release:

  • First Creek at DEN Open Space — The area between the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and Peña Boulevard, north of 56th Avenue on Buckley Road, was closed Thursday.
  • Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge — The refuge remains closed to the public.
  • Prairie Gateway Open Space — The Commerce City open space remains closed along with the vacant fields along East 56th Avenue near the intersections with Quebec Street and Valentia Street.
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods Park — The park is open, but is restricting cars to asphalt parking areas.

John Douglas, Jr., the executive director of the Tri-County Health Department, said in the release that prairie dogs deaths due to plague comes in cycles in Colorado. People and pets can be at risk for exposure, Douglas said.

“The prairie dog colonies are being monitored and treated, but there is still evidence of active disease in these areas requiring them to remain closed to people and pets,” he said.

No cases of plague in people have been reported, and cases are common, according to the release.The symptoms include fever, swollen and tender lymph nodes, chills and extreme exhaustion.

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should promptly contact their health care provider. Although plague can cause serious illness, it can be effectively treated with antibiotics, especially when diagnosed early. Dogs that are exposed to plague do not usually get sick, but can transport infected fleas and expose people.

Tri-County Health Department will continue to monitor these plague-impacted areas and provide weekly updates on Fridays. Click here for more information about plague.

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