Pagosa Springs, CO – Sierra Jane Downing caught bubonic plague from fleas on a dead squirrel during a family camping trip. The 7-year-old girl who contracted the Black Death disease last week is now out of intensive care and recovering well. The Downing incident is the first known case of the plague in Colorado in six years. The family was staying at the Cimarrona Campground near the Williams Creek Reservoir in the San Juan National Forest, according to the Denver Post.
Fleas are common carriers of the deadly disease. Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center doctors believe the young girl came into contact with a dead squirrel infected with the rare and highly contagious virus while enjoying some outdoor fun with her family, according to the Daily Mail.
“She originally presented with a temperature of 107 degrees. She also had a seizure,” Dr. Wendi Drummond told 9 News.
Dr. Jennifer Snow also noted that Sierra Jane Downing’s low blood pressure and high heart rate alerted the staff to pending septic shock and the possibility they were dealing with the dangerous and archaic virus. During the 14th century, the Black Death took the lives of approximately 25 million people as it rapidly spread through Europe. Only a handful of bubonic plague cases are reported in the United States annually.
“You learn about it in medical school during microbiology, but I had never seen a case of it before,” Dr. Snow told 9 News. “It’s one of those things that you don’t necessarily expect to see. But, it’s definitely one of those things you don’t want to miss.”
Sierra Downing was given gentamicin, an antibiotic, but her status continued to plummet for two days before she began responding to treatment. Nearly two-thirds of victims who do not receive a proper regime of treatment and medication typically die within four days.