A Colorado Squirrel Tests Positive For The Bubonic Plague

by Madison Vanderberg
Originally Published: 
A squirrels in the cage
Hyoung Chang/Getty

A squirrel in Colorado has the bubonic plague

Who had plague squirrels on their 2020 bingo cards, because I sure as hell didn’t. Public health officials in Colorado announced that a squirrel has tested positive for the bubonic plague and between this, the pandemic, and the murder hornets (oh, did you forget about the murder hornets?) — are we just, in the end times now?

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According to the Jefferson County Health Department in Colorado, on Saturday, July 11, 2020, a squirrel found in the Town of Morrison (just outside of Denver) has tested positive for the bubonic plague, making this squirrel the first case of plague in the county this year, so the squirrel is patient zero, I guess? Also, apparently squirrels and prairie dogs sometimes just “get” the Black Plague, like it’s just a thing that happens in some U.S. areas. So when your dog lunges for a squirrel on your daily walk — nip that ish in the bud, because America cannot handle two pandemics right now.

The bubonic plague can affect humans, household pets, and wild animals, but the largest risk to humans comes through bites from infected fleas or being coughed on or bitten by an infected animal. The biggest threat of transference from a squirrel is to pets, especially cats, though dogs can carry the infected fleas and pass it on to humans or cats.

The good news is that we’ve come a long way in bubonic plaque research, so if a person is infected with the plague, it is easily treated with antibiotics. “Fortunately, we do have treatments for it these days, so (bubonic plague) is not the same scourge it was five or six centuries ago,” Lawrence Stanberry, a director and doctor at Columbia University told The Today Show.

If infected with the plague, symptoms include a sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, nausea, and extreme pain and swelling of the lymph nodes, and it’s most easily treated when it’s caught within 24 hours of infection, but since the symptoms sound eerily similar to COVID-19 symptoms, well, be careful out there.

If you live in Jefferson County — or according to the CDC, any rural and semi-rural area of the western United States — always make sure to give your pets flea and tick meds and do whatever you can to eliminate wild animals and rodents from coming into your yard. This means no food around the home, no trash or litter pile-ups that critters may want to live in, and certainly no feeding wild animals. So that viral TikTok video of the guy giving a squirrel some water… maybe don’t do that?

Stay safe out there, wear a mask, social distance, and stay away from squirrels.

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