A cat in Kaycee, Wyoming, has been infected with plague, a potentially deadly bacterial infection, health officials in the state confirmed.
The Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory in Laramie recently confirmed the case in the cat, the state department of health said in a statement last week.
The feline, which “is known to wander outdoors,” according to the statement, is the third cat in Wyoming in the past six months to be infected with plague. The other two cases were confirmed in Sheridan and Campbell counties.
Plague — sometimes called the “black plague,” according to Healthline — is a potentially deadly bacterial infection that is caused by a strain of bacteria known as Yersinia pestis.
“This bacterium is found in animals throughout the world and is usually transmitted to humans through fleas,” Healthline notes.
Though rare, plague can equally affect animals and humans. Since 1978, six humans in Wyoming have been exposed to the disease, according to the state department of health, which said the most recent case concerning a human was in 2008.
In total, there are roughly seven cases of human plague each year in the U.S., the Wyoming Department of Health added.
“Plague is a serious bacterial infection that can be deadly for pets and people if not treated as soon as possible with antibiotics,” Alexia Harrist, a state health officer and state epidemiologist with Wyoming Department of Health, said in a statement. “The disease can be passed to humans from ill animals and by fleas coming from infected animals. We are letting people know of the potential threat in the cat’s home area as well as across the state.”
“While the disease is rare in humans, plague occurs naturally in the western United States in areas where rodents and their fleas become infected,” Harrist added.
Symptoms of plague include fever, extreme exhaustion, headache, chills, vomiting, and swollen lymph glands, among others signs.
The disease is more common in areas with poor sanitation or overcrowding, according to Healthline. Using insect repellent in flea-heavy areas, avoiding contact with rodents or dead rodents, among other precautionary steps can help to avoid being infected with plague.
That said, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that cats are “highly susceptible to plague” and are a “common source of Yersinia pestis infection in humans.”
Those who live in an area where plague has been confirmed should not let their pets — dogs included — roam freely, the CDC also noted.