A Colorado teen who died of septicemic plague earlier this month likely contracted the disease through a flea bite.
Taylor Gaes died on June 8, and an investigation is now underway to determine how exactly he contracted the disease. Authorities suspect Gaes came in contact with fleas on a dead rodent or other animal in the family farm, according to the Larimer County's website.
The 16-year-old was a sports star at Poudre High School, serving as a pitcher on the baseball team and a quarterback on the football team, according to the Denver Post.
An investigation into the teen's death is being conducted by the local Department of Health and Environment, which is being assisted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the State Health Department, and the Larimer County Coroner's office.
Officials are also concerned that anyone who visited Gaes' home and attended the ceremony in which his ashes were scattered might have come in contact with the disease. Anyone who was in contact with the victim or visited his home has been urged by local authorities to monitor for any symptoms.
"There is a small chance that others might have been bitten by infected fleas, so anyone who was on the family's land in the last 7 days should seek medical attention immediately if a fever occurs. The last exposure to others was likely on June 14," it said on the Larimer County's website.
Bubonic plague is the most common form of the disease, according to the CDC. The symptoms are similar to that of the flu and include swollen lymph nodes, sudden onset of fever or chills, severe headache, extreme exhaustion, and a general feeling of illness. Septicemic plague occurs when the bacteria directly enters the bloodstream and spreads throughout the body.
The plague is treatable if diagnosed early, but highly deadly when in an advanced stage.
Last year, a 7-year-old girl, also from Colorado, was infected with bubonic plague after allegedly coming in contact with a dead squirrel she was trying to bury, CBS News reported. She eventually recovered.
According to the CDC, an average of seven human plague cases are reported in the U.S. each year, most of them in rural areas in northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, southern Colorado, California, southern Oregon, and far western Nevada.
Felipe Araujo is the overnight homepage editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Felipe Araujo at felipe.araujo@BuzzFeed.com.
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