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Infected Prairie Dogs Shut Down Wildlife Refuge

Parts of Commerce City, Colo., preserve are closed to visitors due to plague
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 20, 2019 9:15 AM CDT
Denver-Area Refuge Is Battling the Plague
A closed sign is displayed at a parking lot near the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo., on Aug. 10, 2019.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

(Newser) – Sections of a wildlife refuge near Denver remain closed due to plague-infected prairie dogs at risk of spreading the disease to people. The 15,000-acre Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo., closed in July as fleas spread sylvatic plague among black-tailed prairie dogs, per USA Today. And though most of the refuge reopened Saturday, "some trails and parking lots will remain closed through Labor Day weekend due to ongoing monitoring and plague management efforts," according to the Tri-County Health Department.

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"The prairie dog colonies are being monitored and burrows are being treated with insecticide, but there is still evidence of fleas in the hiking and camping areas, which could put people and pets at risk," says Executive Director John M. Douglas Jr., per Gizmodo. It doesn't appear the area has seen any reported cases of plague among humans, who can contract the disease through flea or rodent bites or handling infected meat. Sylvatic plague—with symptoms including fever, swollen lymph nodes, and extreme exhaustion—is treated with antibiotics. (Read more plague stories.)

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