PUBLIC HEALTH NOTICE: Ground squirrels south of Boise test positive for plague

GOWEN FIELD, Idaho -- Idaho Public Health officials have reported that ground squirrels, known commonly as whistle pigs, found south of Boise and parts of Elmore County have tested positive for the plague. Plague is a bacterial disease of rodents that can cause serious illness in people and pets if not treated quickly.

The 124th Fighter Wing Public Health Flight continues to monitor developments and coordinate with local health officials to protect the base and surrounding community.

What are the symptoms of the plague?

Humans: Symptoms include: a sudden onset of fever, chills, headache and weakness. In most cases there is painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck areas.

Pets: Symptoms in cats and dogs include: fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and possible swelling in the lymph node under the jaw.

How can I protect myself & my family?

Around the home:
◾Clean up areas near your home where rodents can live, such as woodpiles.
◾Put hay, wood and compost piles as far as possible from your home.
◾Do not leave pet food and water where rodents or other wild animals can access them.
◾For instructions on removing dead whistle pigs or other rodents on your property please contact the 124th FW Public Health Flight at 208-422-5369.

Around the Treasure Valley:
◾Avoid contact with wild rodents, fleas and rodent carcasses.
◾Do not feed rodents in picnic or campground areas.
◾Never handle sick or dead rodents.
◾Keep your pets from roaming and hunting ground squirrels or other rodents.
◾Use an insect repellent that contains DEET when visiting areas where plague may be present.

How can I protect my pets from getting plague?
◾Treat dogs and cats for fleas regularly.
◾Keep pet food in rodent-proof containers.
◾Do not allow pets to hunt or roam in rodent habitat.
◾Immediately take your pet to the veterinarian if they develop fever, tiredness and/or loss of appetite after contact with rodents or after hunting.
◾Talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product on pets.

I shot a whistle pig on public land nearby, should I be concerned?

If you or your pet may have had close or direct contact with whistle pigs or other wild rodents, see your doctor or veterinarian about any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever.

Where can I go for more information?

For more information about the plague, you can visit the Centers for Disease Control's website at: http://www.cdc.gov/plague/faq/

We expect more information about Treasure Valley ground squirrels and plague to become available on the Central District Health Department website at: http://www.cdhd.idaho.gov/index.htm.

For additional tips on preventing the plague and other contagious infections, contact the 124th FW Public Health Flight at 208-422-5369.