The bubonic plague is a disease most of us associate with history, a menace of centuries past that doesn’t threaten us due to advances in medicine, hygiene, and sanitation that impeded the millions who died of the widely-feared illness throughout mankind’s past But news that 7-year-old Sierra Jane Downing was critically ill with the bubonic plague was a shocking and sobering reminder that, while rare, the disease is still a force to be reckoned with.
Downing’s bout with bubonic plague was terrifyingly “nearly-fatal,” but docs were able to get the young girl through the most critical stages of the illness despite its rarity and strong impact. Little Sierra’s case of the bubonic plague was the first recorded in Colorado since 2005, and it seems that, just like in the middle ages, fleas may be responsible for Downing’s scary brush with the deadly illness.
Sean Downing, Sierra’s dad, describes a terrifying moment during which the family — who believed that the bubonic plague Sierra contracted was a bout with the flu — thought the little girl had died after a febrile seizure:
“I thought she died, and I was just running for the ER.”
It’s believed that Sierra Downing contracted bubonic plague after she attempted to bury a dead squirrel she found during a family outing. A spokeswoman for the children’s hospital in Colorado where Downing is being treated explains that the little girl never even touched the squirrel but still managed to contract the disease:
“She never touched the squirrel, but laid her jacket next to the dead squirrel, and the fleas looking for a new host might have jumped onto the jacket.”
After a regimen of strong antibiotics, Downing is expected to be released next week.