Plague Prevention

  • Control rodent population around your home, work place, and recreational areas. Remove brush, rock piles, junk, cluttered firewood, and possible rodent food supplies, such as pet and wild animal food.
  • Make your home and outbuildings rodent-proof.
  • Wear gloves if you are handling or skinning potentially infected animals to prevent contact between your skin and the plague bacteria.
  • Use repellent if you think you could be exposed to rodent fleas during activities such as camping, hiking, or working outdoors. Products containing DEET can be applied to the skin as well as clothing and products containing permethrin can be applied to clothing (always follow instructions on the label).
  • Keep fleas off of your pets by applying flea control products or consulting your veterinarian. Animals that roam freely are more likely to come in contact with plague infected animals. If your pet becomes sick, seek care from a veterinarian as soon as possible.
  • Do not allow dogs or cats that roam free in endemic areas to sleep on your bed

Most human cases in the United States occur in two regions:

  • New Mexico, northern Arizona, and southern Colorado
  • California, southern Oregon, and far western Nevada

The plague bacteria can be transmitted to humans in the following ways:

  • Flea bites. Plague bacteria are most often transmitted by the bite of an infected flea. During plague epizootics, many rodents die, causing hungry fleas to seek other sources of blood. People and animals that visit places where rodents have recently died from plague are at risk of being infected from flea bites. Dogs and cats may also bring plague-infected fleas into the home. Flea bite exposure may result in primary bubonic plague or septicemic plague.
  • Contact with contaminated fluid or tissue.
  • Humans can become infected when handling tissue or body fluids of a plague-infected animal. as plague pneumonia, they may cough droplets containing the plague bacteria into air. If these bacteria-containing droplets are breathed in by another person they can cause pneomonic plague.

Plague is a serious illness. Prompt treatment with the correct medications is critical to prevent complications or death.

Note: A plague vaccine is no longer available in the United States. New plague vaccines are in development but are not expected to be commercially available in the immediate future.