The bubonic plague in America? A child in Idaho gets the diagnosis

Idaho’s Central District Health Department reported on Tuesday that a child in Elmore County was recovering from the bubonic plague.

Known as the “Black Death,” the plague wiped out roughly one-third of Europe’s population in the mid-1300’s. But it is quite rare in modern times.

As in, the ‘Black Death’ is still around?

Evidently. It’s unknown whether the child — whose identity was not disclosed — contracted the disease in Idaho or in Oregon while on a recent vacation.

In a press release, the Health Department said that “Plague has historically been found in wildlife in both states,” and that “since 1990, eight human cases were confirmed in Oregon and two were confirmed in Idaho.”

The child who was diagnosed in Idaho this week was treated with antibiotics.

What can be done to prevent getting the plague?

The Central District Health Department suggested the following measures to take in protecting humans and pets from the plague:

  • Don’t touch or handle wild rodents or their carcasses
  • Keep your pets from roaming and hunting rodents. This is important — when an animal dies from the plague, fleas leave the body and look for another host, which could be your pet, especially if it rolls in a carcass or eats it.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about flea control for your pets before venturing out to ground squirrel areas, and follow the directions on the label. Not all flea products are safe for dogs and cats.
  • Don’t feed rodents in campgrounds, picnic areas, or near your home.
  • Clean up areas near your home where rodents could live.
  • Store hay, wood and compost piles as far as possible away from your home.
  • Don’t leave pet food and water where rodents can get to them.

Further, the Center for Disease Control noted other preventative measures include wearing gloves when handling animals that could be infected, and preventing pets from sleeping in the same bed as humans.

It adds that while new plague vaccines are in development, they aren’t expected to available any time soon. Currently in the U.S., a plague vaccine is no longer available.


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