Child In Idaho Confirmed To Have The Bubonic Plague

Bubonic Plague
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By Sara Wylie

A young child in Elmore County, Idaho was confirmed to have contracted the Yersinia pestis bacteria, or otherwise infamously known as the plague, or The Black Death. 

The child is now in recovery, but as most people know, this bacteria is no small deal and definitely isn’t just a thing of the past that’s been erased out of existence. 

The Black Plague Returns? 

This particular instance was confirmed by the state’s Central District Health Department (CDHD) and was declared to be the first confirmed case of the plague in Idaho in 26 years. 

During the Middle Ages, it is believed that the bacteria had evolved to live inside rodents, but in recent years it has been found to be transmitted to new hosts – humans included – through flea bites. Since rodents, primarily rats and mice, have been drawn after humans for thousands of years, it wasn’t clear where the bacteria first reared its lethal little head again. Not until DNA sequencing became an effective method of study. It has now become clear that the microbe is native to central Asia, but has managed to circulate its way across the globe through the worldwide rodent population.  

Warnings have been posted in parks and outdoor attractions all across the U.S., strongly advising people to stay clear of wild rodents and to wear protective clothing and insect repellent. Though this bacteria is silently present amidst nature, there have only been a minimal number of human cases reported in the past several decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is why most people don’t even give the lurking threat a second thought.  

Where is The Plague?

The anonymous child in Idaho had recently taken a trip to Oregon, where it is supposed that he/she had come in contact with the Yersinia pestis bacteria-carrying flea. Beyond that, it is impossible to really pinpoint exactly where the contraction took place, as the bacteria can incubate within its newly claimed host for several days. There have been eight confirmed cases of the Plague in Oregon and two in Idaho. The child was treated with antibiotics and test results confirmed the the case to be the bubonic plague, which is the most common form out of the three forms of the disease.

The bubonic plague travels through the body through the lymphatic system and can start rapidly replicating as it stealthily evades the immune system, causing a gradual series of symptoms, such as fever and headaches and can lead to swollen black and blue lymph nodes, called “buboes.” It can be successfully treated by antibiotics, especially if caught early on, though if left untreated, can enter the bloodstream and become a more lethal disease.

Protection from The Plague

To help protect yourself and your pets, here are a few tips and precautions to follow, according to the CDHD:

  • Never touch or handle wild rodents or their dead bodies
  • Prevent your pets from hunting rodents  
  • Use veterinary approved flea prevention products on your cats and dogs
  • Don’t feed wild rodents near your home or on campgrounds or any other populated areas
  • Prevent rodents from being attracted to your home by removing accessible food source locations and nest locations, such as pet food and wood piles
  • If you ever find or come across a group of dead squirrels, report it to the state’s Department of Fish and Game

Have any additional thoughts or questions about this? Reach out and let us know, we’d love to help support you however we can. 

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