Bubonic Plague Found in Colorado Squirrel
The plague has recently seen an uptick in cases, and the World Health Organization has categorized it as a re-emerging disease. That's why public health officials in Colorado are urging people to be vigilant after a squirrel tested positive for bubonic plague.
The squirrel was found in the town of Morrison, west of Denver. Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) officials announced the discovery of the plague-infected squirrel in a statement over the weekend. It's the first case of plague in the county, according to the statement, as CBS News reported.
"Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, and can be contracted by humans and household animals if proper precautions are not taken," officials from JCPH said in the statement.
The county was prompted to test the squirrels after someone in Morrison reported seeing at least 15 dead squirrels around the town. Officials tested one, and since it was positive for bubonic plague, they expect others to be infected, according to CBS News.
The disease has been around for centuries and is responsible for the deadliest pandemic in human history. An estimated 50 million people in Europe died during the Black Death pandemic of the Middle Ages. JCPH warns the public that it can infect both humans and animals if proper precautions are not taken, according to CNN.
Every year, there are approximately 1,000 to 2,000 reported cases, but that is likely an undercounted number as there are many unreported cases, according to the WHO, as CNN reported. The U.S. reports up to a few dozen cases every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Two people died in Colorado from the plague in 2015, according to CNN.
Rodents are the main vector of plague transmission from animals to humans, but the disease can also be passed on through flea bites or from person to person. People can be infected from direct contact with blood or tissues of infected animals such as a cough or a bite, according to ABC News.
That danger hit home on the other side of the world this week when a teenage boy in Mongolia died from bubonic plague after eating a marmot, according to a separate report from CNN.
Marmots are large ground squirrels, a type of rodent, that have historically been linked to plague outbreaks in the region. Tests confirmed the teenager had contracted bubonic plague and authorities imposed quarantine measures in the Tugrug district of Gobi-Altai province, according to CNN.
The quarantine began on Sunday, but so far the 15 people authorities isolated who came into contact with the teenager have all been healthy.
JCPH warned pet owners that cats are highly susceptible to the plague from things like flea bites, a rodent scratch or bite, and ingesting an infected rodent. Cats can die if not treated quickly with antibiotics after contact with the plague. Dogs, on the other hand, are far less likely to pick up the plague. However, they can contract it through fleabites, according to ABC News.
In its statement, JCPH recommended several precautions to protect against the plague, including eliminating sources of food and shelter for wild animals, avoiding sick or dead wild animals and rodents, and consulting with vets about flea and tick control, as CBS News reported
"Risk for getting plague is extremely low as long as precautions are taken," the statement said.
The statement also added that plague symptoms include sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, nausea and extreme pain and swelling of lymph nodes, which could occur within two to seven days after exposure to the bacteria.
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By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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