Idaho health officials say ground squirrels (also known as whistle pigs) found dead south of Boise have tested positive for the plague. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and Idaho Fish and Game are asking people to take precautions as outdoor summer activities shift into high gear with warmer weather approaching.

To keep from getting infected, humans and pets should avoid the area shown in THIS MAP.

Health officials say taking these simple precautions can reduce the risk of becoming infected:

  • Do not feed rodents in picnic or campground areas and never handle sick or dead rodents.
  • Keep your pets from roaming and hunting ground squirrels or other rodents in affected desert areas.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product on pets as not all products are safe for cats, dogs or children.
  • Clean up areas near your home where rodents can live, such as woodpiles.
  • Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian, especially if they may have had contact with sick or dead rodents in the desert areas south and east of Boise.
  • See your doctor if you have any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever after being in a plague-impacted area.
  • Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home.
  • Don't leave pet food and water where rodents or other wild animals can access them.

Symptoms of plague in humans include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, and weakness. In most cases there is a painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck areas. Plague symptoms in cats and dogs are fever, lethargy and loss of appetite, with possible swelling in the lymph node under the jaw.

Officials say with prompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment, the fatality rate in people and pets can be greatly reduced.