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Pneumonic Plague: Three More Diagnosed With Deadly Disease

colorado plague

Three more Colorado residents have been diagnosed with pneumonic plague. Those who have contracted the rare and deadly disease are believed to have become ill after having contact with an infected dog. As previously reported by The Inquistir, the dog’s owner was hospitalized after presenting with a life-threatening form of the plague.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment confirmed in a public release that four residents have now contracted pneumonic plague from the same source. The exact health status of the initial patient has not been released. The three latest victims of the plague reportedly have “mild symptoms” and have been treated with antibiotics and are no longer contagious. The three plague patients are in the process of making a full recovery.

Pneumonic plague is the only form of the deadly disease which can be transmitted via person-to-person. The disease is typically passed via “infectious droppings” from coughing. According to health professionals, the bacteria which causes the plague occurs naturally in the western region of American in states such as California, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.

The plague-carrying dog reportedly contracted the disease from either rabbits or prairie dogs. Both animals are the primary hosts for fleas which carry the pneumonic plague bacteria. When an infected animal dies, the fleas quickly seek out another host and spread the disease.

Colorado Department of Public Health Veterinarian Jennifer House said the state has experienced a total of 12 human plague cases during the past ten years. “We usually don’t see an outbreak like this related to the same source,” Dr. House said.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Pneumonic Plague Facts and Tips

Plague is an infectious disease that affects animals and humans. It is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. This bacterium is found in rodents and their fleas and occurs in many areas of the world, including the United States.

Y. pestis is easily destroyed by sunlight and drying. Even so, when released into air, the bacterium will survive for up to one hour, although this could vary depending on conditions.

Pneumonic plague is one of several forms of plague. Depending on circumstances, these forms may occur separately or in combination:

  • Pneumonic plague occurs when Y. pestis infects the lungs. This type of plague can spread from person to person through the air. Transmission can take place if someone breathes in aerosolized bacteria, which could happen in a bioterrorist attack. Pneumonic plague is also spread by breathing in Y. pestis suspended in respiratory droplets from a person (or animal) with pneumonic plague. Becoming infected in this way usually requires direct and close contact with the ill person or animal. Pneumonic plague may also occur if a person with bubonic or septicemic plague is untreated and the bacteria spread to the lungs.
  • Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague. This occurs when an infected flea bites a person or when materials contaminated with Y. pestis enter through a break in a person’s skin. Patients develop swollen, tender lymph glands (called buboes) and fever, headache, chills, and weakness. Bubonic plague does not spread from person to person.
  • Septicemic plague occurs when plague bacteria multiply in the blood. It can be a complication of pneumonic or bubonic plague or it can occur by itself. When it occurs alone, it is caused in the same ways as bubonic plague; however, buboes do not develop. Patients have fever, chills, prostration, abdominal pain, shock, and bleeding into skin and other organs. Septicemic plague does not spread from person to person.

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