Cat-Transmitted Fatal Pneumonic Plague in a Person who Traveled from Colorado to Arizona

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  • Vector and Zoonotic Control Section, Disease Prevention Services, Arizona Department of Health Services, Division of Field Epidemiology, Epidemiology Program Office, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pima County Forensic Science Center, Colorado Department of Health, Phoenix, Arizona

Plague, primarily a disease of rodents and their infected fleas, is fatal in 50% of infected humans if untreated. In the United States, human cases have been concentrated in the southwest. The most common modes of plague transmission are through flea bites or through contact with infected blood or tissues; however, primary pneumonic plague acquired from cats has become increasingly recognized. We report on the case investigation of a patient, presumably exposed to a plague-infected cat in Colorado, who presented with gastrointestinal symptoms, and subsequently died of primary pneumonic plague. Public health officials should be vigilant for plague activity in rodent populations, veterinarians should suspect feline plague in ill or deceased cats, and physicians should have a high index of suspicion for plague in any person who has traveled to plague enzootic areas.

Author Notes

This article is dedicated to the late Dr. John Doll, who devoted his career to combating vector-borne discases in Arizona.

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