Plague kills monkey at Denver Zoo |

Plague kills monkey at Denver Zoo

DENVER ” State and Denver Zoo officials Monday were increasing precautions to prevent an epidemic after a capuchin monkey at the Denver Zoo died of plague last week.

More than a dozen squirrels and at least a rabbit have been found dead in the City Park area just east of downtown, which includes a golf course, the zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature of Science.

Plague is common in Colorado during this time of year, but it usually occurs in rural parts of the state, where it’s sometimes discovered when entire prairie dog colonies die off. It is unusual for the disease to spread into metro areas, said state Health Department epidemiologist John Pape.

Pape was unsure how the monkey was infected, though he and zoo veterinarian Dr. David Kenny suspect the primate ingested the carcass of a dead squirrel that carried the disease, based on normal monkey behavior.

Though the chance that a human could be infected remains minimal, Pape said it’s more important than ever that people take necessary precautions now that the disease has occurred in the city.

Pape said citizens should contact the Department of Health if they happen upon any dead squirrels.

Since plague was rediscovered in the Colorado in 1957, state health officials said there have been 58 human cases, with nine of those cases being fatal.

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