Plague confirmed on west Texas wildlife refuge

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Purple-colored Yersinia pestis bacteria, the bacteria that causes the plague, seen on the spines of a flea. Credit: National Institute of Allergy And Infectious Diseases

Muleshoe, Texas (Hill Country Tribune) — Officials at the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge near Lubbock, Texas announced that plague has been confirmed on the Refuge and is currently confined to two populations of prairie dogs.

The disease is considered widespread across the western United States and outbreaks are fairly common, officials said. But, in the interest of public safety, refuge managers have decided to close portions of the refuge to the public.

“We understand this closure may be an inconvenience to our visitors, however we expect this outbreak to pass fairly soon”, said Jude Smith who is the manager of the Muleshoe National Wildlife Refuge.

In the 1300’s it is believed that the “Black Death” killed millions of people, but with modern treatments and antibiotics, the disease is considered curable. According to the CDC, there are about 650 documented cases worldwide each year which result in 120 deaths.

Though the outbreak is fairly common, officials do warn the public to take precautions. Those precautions include not handling dead animals and using common sense in effected areas.

Other precautions include Reducing rodent habitat around your home, work place, and recreational areas. Experts also suggest that residents should remove brush, rock piles, junk, cluttered firewood, and possible rodent food supplies, such as pet and livestock food from around their homes.

The disease is commonly spread through fleas

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