An elderly Utah resident died from the plague earlier this month, state health officials said on Thursday, the first person in Utah to have been diagnosed with the disease since 2009.
The Utah Department of Health did not identify the patient, but said he or she may have contracted plague from a flea, or contact with a dead animal. The bacteria that causes the disease occurs naturally in the western United States.
“The investigation continues,” the department said in a statement, adding that public health officials do not believe the person had traveled anywhere else where the plague is common.
The plague is typically seen in Utah’s prairie dog population every year, it noted, and it said species such as ferrets, squirrels, and rabbits are also especially susceptible.