A Colorado house cat tested positive for the bubonic plague late last month, state health officials said.
The kitty in the town of Evergreen likely picked up the infectious disease in an encounter with a sick rodent such as a rat, Jefferson County Public Health announced in a statement.
Jim Rada, the agency’s director of environmental health services, said in the statement that “it is normal and expected” that some animals would get the plague in Jefferson each year.
“The good news is that modern antibiotics are effective against plague, and as long as it is treated promptly, severe complications, illness or death can be avoided,” Rada said.
Plague, responsible for killing millions of Europeans in the Middle Ages, is caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis and is often spread to humans through flea bites, or coughs or direct contact with infected animals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cats are often exposed to the disease by eating or coming into contact with rodents, the CDC said.
“The bottom line is people — and their pets — should avoid contact with any species of wild rodent, especially ones that are sick, dying or already dead,” Rada said.
Colorado has had several cases of plague already this year. A 10-year-old-girl died from causes related to the plague in La Plata County in July, according to the Associated Press.