A child in Idaho is recovering after being struck with the plague, leaving many wondering how the plague exists in the 21st century. It is unknown whether they were exposed to the disease at home, or overseas in a recent trip to Oregon. The disease can spread between other animals through fleas and the humans can also get infected with it on coming in contact with the infected fleas or animals.
According to the state's health department, it is unknown whether the child was exposed to the plague in Idaho, or if the illness was picked up during a recent trip to Oregon.
The disease, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, is often associated with the "Black Death" epidemic that was spread by rats and killed millions in medieval Europe.
Ken Gage, a researcher focused on vector-borne disease at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told NPR in 2014 that there are a number of rodents in the American West that are susceptible to plague.
Plague can be treated with antibiotics, and patients have a better chance of a full recovery if they seek treatment early.
The plague was brought to the United States around 1900 by rat-infested steamships that had sailed from areas with high infection rates.
According to the CDC, an average of seven human plague cases have been reported each year across the U.S. Person-to-person transmission is extremely rare, and wasn't a factor in this case, officials said.
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"People can decrease their risk by treating their pets for fleas and avoiding contact with wildlife", said Sarah Correll, CDHD epidemiologist.
You are advised to stay away from rodents and to wear insect repellent. They usually start two to six days after exposure.
One of the oldest identifiable diseases known to man, the plague is still widely distributed in the warm parts of the world. If you or your pet becomes ill-especially with sudden and severe fever-seek medical attention immediately.
Don't feed rodents in campgrounds, picnic areas, or near your home.
The bubonic plague is the most common form of plague and is characterized by painful swollen lymph nodes.
- Reduce rodent habitat around your home, workplace and recreational areas. Cats with plague pneumonia can give it to people.
Use flea products on pets - check with a veterinarian for an appropriate product.