The Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment in the southwestern United States is investigating what they say is a human case of plague, based on preliminary test results.

The department did not give any details on who contracted the bacteria, their condition, or how they believe the person came into contact with the bacterium.

The plague, “Yersinia pestis”, is most commonly transmitted by fleas and wild rodents.

A bubonic plague warning sign is displayed at a parking lot near the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colorado, in 2019. It’s estimated that there are between zero and 17 cases of the plague in humans each year in the United States. (AP)

People can become affected by bites of infected fleas, touching infected animals, or inhaling droplets from the cough of an infected person or animal.

Typically the plague will appear as symptoms that include fever and chills, severe headache, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and a feeling of illness.

Another common symptom of plague is also swollen lymph nodes with pain.

“If you develop symptoms of plague, see a health care provider immediately. Plague can be treated successfully with antibiotics, but an infected person must be treated promptly to avoid serious complications or death,” said Alicia Solis, program manager of the Office of Communicable Disease and Emergency Preparedness at PDPHE.

bubonic plague
The Yersinia pestis bacteria which causes the plague is most commonly transmitted by fleas and wild rodents. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above you should seek care immediately, as the plague is treatable.

How common are human plague cases?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the plague is not common at all in the United States.

The CDC says that in the United States, there are estimated to be between zero and 17 cases per year.

Globally, the World Health Organization reports between 1000 and 3000 cases of plague worldwide each year.

Most cases are the bubonic form of the disease.

Most cases in the United States are concentrated in rural areas, with the northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, and southern Colorado regions being one of the major hot spots of the disease.

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