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It's the second such incident in the state this year
One adult has died in Colorado from the disease most commonly known as simply “the plague,” according to Pueblo City-County Health Department. Vastly more common in 14th century Eurasia, the plague is rarely found in the modern-day United States, though the Colorado incident is not the first time the disease has made an appearance in recent years.
The first death came in June — 16-year-old Taylor Gaes from Fort Collins, Colo., beloved for his quiet passion and wicked fastball. The second was announced Wednesday — an unidentified adult from the southern part of the state.
Both are thought to have died from septicemic plague, a rare and deadly form of the disease that slaughtered millions in the Middle Ages but is now mostly an isolated — if tragic — curiosity. A scant seven plague cases are reported in the U.S. each year, most of them easily treatable with antibiotics. These are the first deaths in Colorado in more than a decade, and in Gaes’s case at least, the disease was only deadly because doctors didn’t recognize it as plague.
The two deaths are both rarities, and neither case seems likely to spread to anyone else. [WaPo]
Between 1900 and 2012, 1006 confirmed or probable human plague cases occurred in the United States. Over 80% of United States plague cases have been the bubonic form. In recent decades, an average of seven human plague cases have been reported each year
The disease is caused by the Yersinia pestis bacteria and will incubate in a person between two to six days before they show symptoms. There are three kinds of plague: bubonic, which leads to swollen lymph nodes; septicemic, which leads to a blood infection; and pneumatic, which is when the bacteria settle in the blood and cause pneumonia.
Nevin-Woods explained that prairie dogs can become infected with fleas that carry the virus and, eventually, those fleas can spread the disease to other animals or even people in the area. [ABCNews]
A second person has died of the plague this summer in Colorado and health officials are warning residents to take steps to guard against contracting the bacterial disease as the weather creates an opportunity for more cases to develop.
Officials from the Pueblo City Council Health Department announced this week the unnamed patient died from to a suspected case of septicemic plague, which leads to a dangerous blood infection. About seven people are diagnosed with a form of the plague in the United States every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It is possible, but difficult, to effectively weaponize Y. pestis," said John D. Clements, professor and chair of the program in molecular pathogenesis and immunology at the Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans.
"The only effective way would be to aerosolize the organisms and this would be much more difficult than for anthrax," he added. "This is mostly due to the fact that, unlike Bacillus anthracis, Yersinia do not make spores. Keeping the organism suspended at a high enough concentration, at the right particle size and viable is problematic."
.(while)Flea problems on pets are uncommon in Colorado...
.Fleas reproduce poorly in the low humidity of homes.
.Most flea problems originate from fox or skunks that den in the vicinity of homes.
.Vacuuming the area around where pets rest and using insecticides and traps can help manage flea problems.
.Plague is a potentially life threatening disease that is moved among wild rodent populations by fleas—primarily the rock squirrel flea.
(CNN)The word "plague" brings to mind the great scourge of the Middle Ages that filled the streets and so-called plague pits with the bodies of its victims.
But as recent news reports remind us, we cannot entirely dispatch the plague to the annals of history. Yersinia pestis, the same type of bacterium that was responsible for the pandemic that wiped out 60% of the European population between the 14th and 17th centuries, maintains a foothold in the United States and around the globe in rodents and the fleas that live on them.
It’s a busy plague season. This week, a California child tested positive for plague after a visit to Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park. In Colorado, a Boulder resident became ill, likely from contact with a dead chipmunk, and a Pueblo County resident died of plague. This brings this summer’s total to 6, with 3 fatal cases. Half of the cases occurred in Colorado, with the current case in Boulder being the first there in more than 20 years. The LA child is the first person to become ill in California with plague since 2006.