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Endangered black-footed ferrets were released on Soapstone Priarie in 2014. Coloradoan file video

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Thousands of people who planned to camp during three days of Phish concerts near Denver over Labor Day weekend are scrambling to make other plans.

Public health officials are concerned that fleas in and around nearby prairie dog burrows could spread the plague, according to the Associated Press. So camping has been banned. 

Phish is known for its devoted fan culture, with concerts being just part of the overall experience, and between 2,000 and 3,000 people were expected to camp and get the full experience.

But officials are still finding infected fleas in fields surrounding Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, so the stadium's owner decided Phishheads need to keep to the asphalt. 

That means Shakedown Street also won't be allowed, since the area normally used by vendors outside the stadium is on a dirt road, and no one wants to take home a souvenir case of the plague.

The outbreak has also partially closed the nearby Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, and threatens Colorado’s endangered black-footed ferret population.

Part of the refuge reopened Saturday, but the public may still barred from other areas until early September, wildlife officials at the refuge said in a statement

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Aran Meyer, Fort Collins Natural Areas Department wildlife biologist, said the sylvatic plague virus is a “serious threat’’ to black-footed ferret populations.

It is rare for humans to contract the various forms of plague — seven per year, according to the CDC — and few humans die of the disease in the U.S. Most of the cases occur in rural areas in the western U.S., the CDC says.

Plague safety tips

  • Use insect repellent on skin and clothes.
  • Do not camp near rodent nests or burrows.
  • Consult your physician if you become suddenly ill within seven days of visiting a plague-affected area.

Plague symptoms

  • Sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and weakness
  • Tender and extremely swollen lymph nodes
  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea 

Inform your health care provider about possible exposure. Plague is curable when diagnosed early but can be fatal unless treated promptly. 

Contributing: Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY; Miles Blumhardt, Fort Collins Coloradoan; Associated Press

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