Sylvatic plague, or plague of wild rodents is caused by Yersinia pestis and entered California (USA) from Asia about 1899. Extensive sampling during the 1930's and 1940's documented the spread of plague to approximately its current distribution in North America. Records from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention document plague in Kansas (USA) between 1945 and 1950, but since then there has been no documentation of plague in the state. Following a die-off of a black-tailed prairie dog (Cynomys ludovicianus) colony on the Cimarron National Grassland, in the southwestern corner of Kansas (37°10′N, 101°45′W), we sampled fleas from burrows in June 1997, and tested them for Yersinia pestis. Twelve of 13 pools of Oropsyla hirsuta and one of two Pulex sp. were positive. A similar sample of fleas, from another colony where black-tailed prairie dogs were active at the time, yielded no positive fleas.
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Vol. 36 • No. 2