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Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

The plague rarely affects humans, although about 7 cases are reported per year in the U.S. Here’s why

By meerna Jul11,2024
The plague rarely affects humans, although about 7 cases are reported per year in the U.S. Here’s why

DEVI SHASTRI, Associated Press

11 hours ago

FILE - In this Aug. 10, 2019, file photo, a sign warning of bubonic plague is posted in a parking lot near the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo. The bacteria that causes the disease is transmitted through the bites of infected fleas, which spread it between rodents, pets and people. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

FILE – In this Aug. 10, 2019, file photo, a sign warning of bubonic plague is posted in a parking lot near the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo. The bacteria that causes the disease is transmitted through the bites of infected fleas, which spread it between rodents, pets and people. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Colorado health officials have confirmed a human case of bubonic plague, a rare bacterial infection that killed tens of millions of people in 14th-century Europe. It is now easily treated with antibiotics.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are seven human cases of plague per year in the U.S., and in February, Oregon officials reported the case of a person who likely became infected by a sick cat.


Surprised the plague still exists? Here’s what you need to know.

What is the plague?

Bubonic plague is the most common form of bacterial infection that spreads naturally among rodents such as prairie dogs and rats.

There are two other forms of plague: septicemic plague (which spreads throughout the body) and pneumonic plague (which attacks the lungs).

Bubonic plague causes painful swellings of the lymph nodes, most commonly in the groin, groin area, and neck, called buboes. It often develops and develops into the other two forms of plague if left untreated.

Other symptoms of plague, according to the Cleveland Clinic, include sudden high fever and chills, headaches, and pain in the abdomen, legs and arms.

How can you get the plague?

The bacteria are spread through the bites of infected fleas, which infect rodents, pets and humans.

People can also get plague by touching infected bodily fluids, which is why health experts recommend taking extra care when handling dead or sick animals. Plague can also spread through respiratory droplets from a patient with pneumonic plague.

Pneumonic plague is the deadliest and most easily spread disease, and if left untreated, it has a mortality rate of almost 100 percent, according to Lisa Morici, a microbiologist and immunologist at Tulane University School of Medicine.

Where does the plague occur?

In the U.S., most cases occur in rural areas of northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, southern Colorado, California, southern Oregon and far western Nevada, according to the CDC.

According to the World Health Organization, most cases of plague occur in Congo, Madagascar and Peru.

How to treat the plague?

Plague has never been completely eradicated, but we have made progress in preventing its spread and treating it in humans.

With early treatment with antibiotics, plague can be cured. The key is to see a doctor quickly—otherwise, plague can be deadly.

And as the old proverb goes: prevention is better than cure.

Keeping areas around your home free of debris and other things that might attract rodents can reduce the risk of infection, as can making sure your pets are up to date on flea treatments. When hunting, camping or spending time outdoors, the CDC recommends using a bug spray with DEET to keep fleas and other disease-carrying pests at bay.

Is there a vaccine?

Yes, but WHO recommends it only for people who are at high risk of infection, such as laboratory and healthcare workers. There is no vaccine against plague in the US

Morici said more research is needed because while vaccines used in other parts of the world are effective against bubonic plague, there is no strong evidence they also protect against the pneumonic form of plague.

She added that testing a plague vaccine would be ethically and logistically difficult.

“Because the bubonic form is fully curable with antibiotics and is quite rare — you don’t see thousands of cases of plague a year — there’s not a large market for a plague vaccine right now,” Morici said.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

By meerna

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