A SQUIRREL has tested positive for bubonic plague and US public health officials have issued a warning to nearby residents who may have come into contact with the infected animal. 

The squirrel is the first case of plague in Jefferson County, Colorado after it was discovered and tested in the town of Morrison on Saturday. 

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Public health officials have reassured residents of the county that the risk of contracting the plague is low if proper precautions are taken but warned that the disease can be passed from infected fleas which could in turn infect household animals such as cats. 

Symptoms of plague may include sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, nausea and extreme pain and swelling of lymph nodes, occurring within two to seven days after exposure. 

HeraldScotland:

Plague can be effectively treated with antibiotics when diagnosed early. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should consult their doctor. 

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The disease, which by one estimate wiped out 60 per cent of Europe’s population in the 14th century, is now treatable by a course of antibiotics and is caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis. 

If untreated, it can kill within a week. 

Jefferson County Public Health has recommended precautions to protect residents of the county and their pets from plague, including not feeding wild animals, keeping a clean and litter-free garden outside homes and ensuring pets or owners do not come into contact with dead or sick animals which may be infected. 

It comes after reports from Inner Mongolia that one person - a herdsman from the city of Bayannur - had tested positive for bubonic plague earlier this month. 

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The Global Times - China’s English-language newspaper - reported that another suspected case was discovered on July 6, after a 15-year-old patient developed a fever after being in contact with a marmot hunted by a dog, according to Mongolian health authorities.