Pneumonic plague case found in Wyoming

GILLETTE — A rare case of the potentially deadly pneumonic plague was recently detected in a northern Fremont County resident.

The Wyoming Department of Health announced the finding on Wednesday.

The pneumonic plague infection, believed to be the first in Wyoming since 2008, came from the person’s contact with sick cats.

There are multiple kinds of plague, with pneumonic plague being both the most serious form as well as the only form that can transmit from person to person. It can be contracted by inhaling infectious droplets or from other untreated types of plague, bubonic and septicemic.

Those with known exposure to the active Wyoming case of pneumonic plague will require post-exposure treatment with antibiotics and are being notified by the Wyoming Department of Health.

Plague, in all its forms, is a bacterial infection that can be deadly to people and animals if not treated promptly with antibiotics, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

Bubonic plague, often caused by infected fleas, is most common and involves sudden fever, headache, chills and weakness, along with at least one swollen lymph node called buboes.

Septicemic plague involves similar symptoms as bubonic plague, with the possibility of developing abdominal pain, shock and bleeding into the skin or other organs. This type can be caused by infection from a flea or animal, but also could develop from untreated bubonic plague.

The most severe version, pneumonic plague, could include fever, headache, weakness, rapidly developing pneumonia, shortness of breath, chest pain and sometimes watery, bloody mucous.

“It’s safe to assume that the risk for plague exists all around our state,” said State Health Officer Alexia Harrist in a press release. “While the disease is rare in humans, it is important for people to take precautions to reduce exposure and to seek prompt medical care if symptoms consistent with plague develop.”

The state department of health reported that this pneumonic plague case is believed to be the seventh plague case contracted in Wyoming since 1978.

Since then, there was a 1978 out-of-state case caught in Washakie County, a 1982 Laramie County case, another Washakie county case in 2000, an out-of-state case contracted in Goshen County in 2004 and another out-of-state case from Teton County in 2008.

The person infected with the plague in a 1992 Sheridan County case died.