Bubonic plague was something people read about in the history books. However, two people were infected with it in New Mexico earlier this year. It turns out that those were not isolated cases. According to Business Insider, fleas in Arizona were found carrying Yersinia pestis. It is the same bacteria that caused the deaths of 75 to 200 million people in Europe in the 1300s.
In the past several weeks, public health officials in Navajo County and Coconino County, both in Arizona, confirmed fleas tested positive for Yersinia pestis. On the Navajo County Health Department’s Facebook page, the discovery was made after collecting fleas from a private property in Taylor. After being tested at Northern Arizona University, the residents were notified and the burrows were treated. The health department stated the area would be closely monitored to see if any additional action is necessary.
Residents were advised to reduce the risk of exposure by trying to avoid fleas, rabbits, rodents, and predators. Burrows should also to be avoided and people should not handle sick or dead animals. Officials asked to be notified if anyone noticed a sudden die-off of rabbits, rodents, or prairie dogs.
Humans and animals can get infected with the plague through the bite of an infected flea. It can also be transmitted by having direct contact with an animal that has the disease. This was especially concerning to those who have dogs or cats, who often carry these pests. Pet owners were advised to not allow their animals to run free outside. If they happen to pick up an infected flea, pets can get infected, and then it can be passed to humans. Cats are particularly susceptible to the disease.
It was also recommended to talk to veterinarians about how to prevent and treat fleas. In addition to collars and shampoos, there is now a pill available to help keep fleas away.
Even though the mention of Bubonic plague strikes fear in many people, it is important to stay calm. Advances in science and medication mean that it can be treated if it is caught early. Sanitation, especially hand washing, also give people today a much better prognosis.
“Symptoms of plague in humans generally appear within two to six days following exposure and include the following: fever, chills, headache, weakness, muscle pain, and swollen lymph glands (called ‘buboes’) in the groin, armpits, or limbs. The disease can become septicemic (spreading throughout the bloodstream) and/or pneumonic (affecting the lungs), but is curable with proper antibiotic therapy if diagnosed and treated early.”
Many people thought the plague was something in the past. However, it is still around today because Yersinia pestis is “remarkably similar” to the bacteria that caused the Black Death.
[Featured Image by marcouliana/Thinkstock]