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Experts say an increase in the rodent population may be to blame for an uptick in plague cases in recent years.

According to the state health department there have been four human cases of the plague in Colorado in 2015. The Pueblo City County Health Department confirmed an adult died from the plague Wednesday. It's the second death due to plague in Colorado this year.

Plague is transported through rodents by infected fleas. A spokesperson for the Larimer County Health Department says a lower number of rodent predators, and a wet spring, has allowed for a surge of the rodent population. That makes the transmission of the plague more likely.

"We don't have too many coyotes and foxes so we have more rats and that's how the transmission takes place so the more rodents we have, the more likelihood that we'll have some of these cases," County Health Department spokesperson Katie O'Donnell said.

Like plague, O'Donnell says the lack of natural predators may also be the reason for more cases of Tularemia or Rabbit Fever. Recently the Weld County health department reported a surge in Tularemia cases. Across the state infections are at near record levels. Because there is no real way of slowing the transmission of either disease in wildlife, O'Donnell says it's important for Colorado residents to take caution, and become their own advocates for their health.

"If you don't feel good and it's not just a cold or not just aches and pains, they should go see their doctor. It's a simple test to run for both and antibiotics are easy for both. It's just a matter of getting that initial diagnosis," she said.

People infected with plague usually show symptoms two to six days after coming into contact with an infected animal.

 

-Nicholas McGill