Rare case of bubonic plague reported in Idaho
In the past week, reports have emerged from Idaho of a young boy who contracted bubonic plague. Here, we cover all the details and relay the official safety advice.
Bubonic plague is one of three types of plague caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. It is passed to humans by the bite of an infected flea, which can be spread far and wide by hitching a ride on small animals. Y. pestis resides in some animal populations — such as ground squirrels — in the United States, but it is very rare to see it passed to humans. This most recent case occurred in a 14-year-old boy in Elmore County, ID. At this stage, it is not clear whether the child — who has remained anonymous — contracted the disease in his home state of Idaho or during a recent trip to Oregon. However, according to officials, ground squirrels near the child's home had tested positive for Y. pestis in both 2015 and 2016.
An unusual occurence
The news was initially broken by Elmore County Central District Health Department (CDHD). In their statement, they make it clear that this is not an emerging pattern of infections, saying: "Since 1990, eight human cases were confirmed in Oregon, and two were confirmed in Idaho."
This is the first case of bubonic plague in the state for 26 years and only the fifth since 1940. The press release continues, "Symptoms of plague usually occur within 2–6 days of exposure and include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, and weakness." In most cases, there is also a painful swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin, armpit, or neck.
In the Middle Ages, the plague descended on Europe. It is known as the Black Death, and it killed an incredible one third to one half of the continent's population.
With medical advancements today, the disease can be treated. The Elmore County CDHD news release provides us with a dash of comfort, saying that "[p]rompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment can greatly reduce the risk of death."
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