LOCAL NEWS

State Biologists, Journalists Treated For Plague Exposure

Sep 5, 2018, 6:59 PM | Updated: Sep 6, 2018, 9:07 am

CEDAR CITY, Utah – Several wildlife biologists and one of our own KSL TV photojournalists have been placed on antibiotics after a potential exposure to the plague. The three biologists handled dead prairie dogs in Southern Utah, that later tested positive for the plague.

State wildlife officials said they acted out of an abundance of caution when they realized several people may have been exposed.

“Even though the health professionals said, you don’t need to be concerned about anybody getting sick. We just wanted to make sure that everybody had the information,” said Mark Hadley, spokesman for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Yes, THAT plague. The same plague that killed millions in Europe in the Middle Ages. A doctor familiar with the disease said antibiotics have nearly eliminated plague among humans. It’s still widespread and problematic in prairie dog colonies in Utah, and that’s what raised the concerns.

Twelve days ago, a wildlife biologist with the Bureau of Land Management found three dead prairie dogs in a colony in Iron County.

“He placed the prairie dogs in the back of a truck, drove into our Cedar City office, and two DWR biologists at the office went ahead and put the prairie dogs in plastic bags, sealed them up,” said Hadley.

The biologists sent those bags to a diagnostic lab in Spanish Fork.

“We wanted to know what killed the prairie dogs,” said Hadley.

Six days later they got the results.

“That indicated that these prairie dogs had died from the plague,” said Hadley.

As a preventative measure, the three biologists who handled the dead prairie dogs were put on antibiotics.

“To make sure that no one got sick who actually handled these prairie dogs,” said Hadley.

They also had concerns about the truck used to transport the dead prairie dogs. It was used for a capture and collar operation one day before they got the results on the plague. KSL photojournalist Mark Weaver shot that story, and was called by the DWR last Friday, along with two other journalists.

“I was not physically in the truck,” said Weaver. “But I was right off to the side of it.”

When he got the call from Hadley informing him that there was a slight chance he had been exposed to the plague.

“I was stunned,” he said. “I didn’t know what to think. All of these wild thoughts started going through my mind.”

Especially because he was arriving at the hospital for the birth of his first grandchild.

“I didn’t know what to do,” he said.

A conversation with the chief medical officer of the Southwest Utah Health Department eased his fears. The DWR had given Weaver the doctor’s contact information.

“He told me basically that I was at minimal risk. If I wanted to completely play it safe, that I should go to an InstaCare and get some antibiotics,” said Weaver.

Which he did.

“I just couldn’t go into that family birthing center having that in the back of my mind,” he said. “I had to do something.”

The medical director told Weaver he was likely out of the window of exposure.

“I’ve been doing this for 33 years now, and I think that I’ve encountered everything,” said Weaver. “I’ve never had a brush with the plague before.”

Just a good story for a photojournalist to tell his happy and healthy granddaughter someday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are three different forms – the bubonic plague, the septicemic plague, and the pneumonic plague. Both bubonic and septicemic are transmitted by bite from an infected flea. Septicemic can also be transmitted by handling an infected animal.

Pneumonic plague is the only one that can be transported person to person. That happens by inhaling infectious droplets that spread to the lungs.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

Salt Lake City police responding to a shooting at the Downtown West apartment complex. (SLC PD)...
Michael Houck & Lauren Steinbrecher

One person in critical condition after shooting at Salt Lake City apartment complex

Salt Lake City police are investigating a shooting with several people detained Sunday evening. 
23 hours ago
Layton police responding to a barricaded suspect in an apartment building. (Courtesy: Phoenix Antho...
Michael Houck

SWAT arrest fugitive who hid in an Layton apartment complex

A wanted fugitive is in police custody after hiding out in a Layton apartment complex Sunday afternoon.
23 hours ago
Guest Haus, one of the six businesses, taking part of the recycling pilot program....
Shelby Lofton

Park City introduces reusable food container pilot program

Tossed food take-out containers could be a thing of the past for Park City as it's launching a pilot program that reimagines the doggie bag.
23 hours ago
The three car crash, causing roads to be blocked on SR-36. (Courtesy: Colleen Shuman)...
Michael Houck

Three vehicle crash closes portion of SR-36, one person flown to hospital

One person has serious injuries after a crash caused a trailer to flip and strike another vehicle Sunday afternoon.
23 hours ago
Wildlife officials responding to the cougar incident....
Michael Houck & Lauren Steinbrecher

Trail runner hurt by cougar in Millcreek Canyon, DWR found and euthanized the animal

A runner was hurt by a cougar after accidentally into it on a trail in Millcreek Canyon.
23 hours ago
Paraglider crashed into mountain and was hoisted to the U of U in critical condition....
Brooke Williams

Life Flight responds to critical condition paragliding crash up Olympus Cove Sunday

Paraglider crashed into mountain and was hoisted by Life Flight to the U of U in critical condition.
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
State Biologists, Journalists Treated For Plague Exposure