County Health starts plague prevention efforts in PV

       A squirrel died of the plague this month near Pleasant Valley's Westmoor Park, so El Paso County Health officials are taking the usual precautions.
       Lee Griffen, the Health Department's program director overseeing animal-to-human diseases, advised the public not to catch, feed, handle or kill any type of squirrel, chipmunk or other wild rodent. “Also, keep your dogs and cats under control and do not allow them to chase wild animals,” Griffen said. “If you live in the affected area, it is especially important to keep cats indoors, because they are more vulnerable to plague than dogs. Residents within the affected area should also clear property from trash, lumber piles, and other areas where animals may live or hide.”
       Plague is a bacterial disease transmitted by flea bites.
       The chief control measure being used by the Health Department is baiting squirrels into carpeted tubes containing an insecticide that kills the plague fleas. The lure is peanut butter and oats, Griffen said.
       In Pleasant Valley, five bait tubes have been placed - in residential yards and a local park.
       The area of concern is roughly bounded by Chambers Drive, 31st Street and Fontanero Street, Griffen said. Health Depart-ment staff have been going door-to-door with pamphlets about the issue.
       No human plague cases have been reported in El Paso County since 1991. It is not definitely known how many cat or dog cases there have been, because there is no requirement to report that. However, the state database shows no cat cases since 1997, Griffen said.
       Anyone finding a dead squirrel in the affected area is asked to contact County Health at 575-8635. Additional information is available at www.elpasocountyhealth.org.

Westside Pioneer/press release