Originally created 07/11/97

Two human plague deaths blamed on prairie dogs



ATLANTA (AP) - Two people who died from human plague last year were likely infected by prairie dogs.

The deaths are among five cases of human plague in 1996, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. Human plague can be treated with antibiotics if caught early.

An 18-year-old man from Flagstaff, Ariz., died in August after he was bitten by fleas while walking through a colony of prairie dogs in the northeast part of the state, the CDC said.

The same month, a 16-year-old Colorado girl contracted the plague. She lived near an area where many prairie dogs had died. The CDC believes she got the plague from her cat, who became infected from the prairie dogs.

Cats can catch the disease from infected fleas or rodents and pass it on when they bite, scratch or lick humans.

Since 1947, there have been 390 cases of human plague in the United States, resulting in 60 deaths. Most cases are from Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico.