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ALERT The Plague Is Back, This Time In New Mexico
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  1. #1
    Join Date
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    The Plague Is Back, This Time In New Mexico

    RAE ELLEN BICHELL
    June 29, 2017

    http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsand...-in-new-mexico

    Three people in New Mexico caught the plague, according to health officials there, who reported the two most recent cases this week.

    Yes, this is the same illness that killed an estimated 50 million people across three continents in the 1300s, though these days common antibiotics will get rid of it.

    Once known as the Black Death for the dark patches caused by bleeding under the skin, the plague swept Europe 700 years ago, killing a third of the population an estimated 25 million. It wiped out millions in China and Hong Kong in the late 1800s before people put two and two together and started targeting rat populations.

    Centuries later, the plague periodically pops up in countries across the globe though at minor levels compared to its medieval heyday. In 2015, the World Health Organization recorded 320 cases across the globe, including 77 deaths.

    A flea-dwelling bacterium, Yersinia pestis, causes the scourge.

    The U.S. tends to see between one and 17 human cases a year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the disease likely hitched a ride to the U.S. in 1900 on flea-infested rats, which had boarded steamships in Asia. Since then, infected fleas have taken up residence on rodents including chipmunks, squirrels and prairie dogs across the southwest.

    New Mexico and neighboring states are nearly plague-perfect settings, with their buffet of possible rodent hosts.

    Last year, New Mexico state had four cases. The year before that, there were another four, including one death. This year, all three were hospitalized but are now recovering at home.

    The plague can persist in rodent populations, especially wild ones, for a long time without affecting humans. But it can re-emerge.

    As we've reported in previous posts, the bacteria will hook onto the lining of a flea's gut and stomach, growing into a film that can clog the insect's digestive passage. The next time the flea goes for a blood meal, it pukes into whatever animal it's feeding on (usually a rodent), spreading the bacteria.

    Once a rodent is infected, the illness can spread to wild carnivores that eat it, or to cats, dogs and people that come within flea-jump range.

    Paul Ettestad, a public health veterinarian for the New Mexico state health department, says prairie dogs are particularly vulnerable to plague. If a whole colony gets the illness, the bacterium amplifies.

    "It's like putting a match to a grass prairie," he says. "Whoosh."

    As their rodent hosts die off, fleas will seek a new one typically the next animal to peer down the burrow hole, whether it's a coyote or a house cat.

    "What we see in the West here is the fleas will crawl up to the entrance of the burrow and wait for a host to come by," says Ken Gage, who studies vector-borne diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "If they get on another rodent that they can live on, then they've been successful. But they can also jump on humans, or on dogs or coyotes or cats."

    Sometimes, that new host can transport the fleas a few miles away and spread them to other animals.

    Cats and dogs can catch fleas while exploring outdoors, or they can drag infected rodents directly into the home. Sick cats, which are more susceptible to the disease than dogs, can also pass the infection to humans directly.

    The plague comes in three forms. If a person gets bitten by an infected flea, they'd most likely develop bubonic plague, named for the painful lumps, or "buboes," where the bacteria multiply. It can also get into the bloodstream, causing septicemic plague. If left untreated, the bacterium can eventually spread to the lungs, causing pneumonic plague, which the World Health Organization considers to be among the deadliest infectious diseases.

    Two of this year's New Mexico cases were bubonic, and one was pneumonic, says Paul Ettestad. The patient with the pneumonic case is currently recovering from organ damage due to the illness. Because pneumonic plague can spread between people, health officials traced dozens of the patient's contacts and gave them prophylactic antibiotics.

    That case likely started out as bubonic or septicemic, Ettestad says, but because the person didn't seek medical care quickly enough, the bacterium was able to spread to the lungs.

    "Sometimes people think they can tough it out at home and they're gonna get better," he says. "What happens with plague is you kinda hang on, hang on, hang on and then suddenly the bacteria can spread into your bloodstream extremely quickly and it can overwhelm a person."

    In 2015, a patient in New Mexico died after waiting too long to seek medical treatment.

    In places with poor access to health care, the illness can be deadly on a larger scale. Last fall, an outbreak started in a remote part of Madagascar that hadn't seen the infection since 1950. According to WHO, more than 60 people were infected, and 26 died. Most cases were bubonic, though a few were pneumonic. Partially due to inaccessibility and security issues "due to local banditry," a WHO spokesman says that "the real magnitude of the outbreak is still to be defined."

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
    Location
    Idaho
    Posts
    11,876
    Black Plague is under control now, here in the west, but as Melodi (IIRC) pointed out, when the Oroville dam threatened, that the control is entirely dependent on availability of health care. This requires that both quick detection and required medications be onsite.

    The Oroville situation was dangerous, because people were crowded together, along with food provisions and other attractants for rodents. If the dam had collapsed, the rodents, some of who carry plague (it's endemic throughout the area now), would congregate where the dry land and food were. What wasn't available was the medical services as noted. Rodents are stunning endurance swimmers.

    The Madagascar situation was dire. I followed it a bit as news reports came out. There was a serious combination of political collapse, economic collapse, and even the inability of the government to provide basic services, like electrical power. The despair level in the country was huge. There was no effective government services to collect this data, and it is likely that many cases went under the radar. How many ? 10x the reported cases? Nobody knows.

    Don't know who keeps track of developments in Madagascar, but it would be an excellent study of how black plague spreads and burns out over time, in the absence of modern medicine. Also a look at what other treatments and preventive measures worked. Sad to say, it's highly unlikely under current conditions.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2009
    Location
    A Socialist State
    Posts
    12,604
    Fair use

    Fleas are testing positive for the plague in parts of Arizona
    By Michael Edison Hayden - Aug 12, 2017, 1:03 PM



    Officials in two Arizona counties are warning the public after fleas in the region tested positive for the plague, the infamous infectious disease that killed millions during the Middle Ages.

    Navajo County Public Health officials confirmed on Friday that fleas in the area have tested positive for the rare disease. The public health warning follows a similar notice from Coconino County Public Health Services District in Arizona warning of the presence of plague in fleas found there too.

    Both counties are situated in the northern part of Arizona.

    "Navajo County Health Department is urging the public to take precautions to reduce their risk of exposure to this serious disease, which can be present in fleas, rodents, rabbits and predators that feed upon these animals," the public health warning states. "The disease can be transmitted to humans and other animals by the bite of an infected flea or by direct contact with an infected animal."

    Officials also urged persons living, working, camping or visiting in these areas to take precautions to reduce their risk of exposure, including avoiding sick or dead animals, keeping pets from roaming loose, and avoiding rodent burrows and fleas.

    While the warning may ring alarm bells for people who only know of the plague from history books, the findings are not without precedent.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that studies suggest that outbreaks of the plague occasionally occur in southwestern U.S. states like Arizona during cooler summers that follow wet winters.

    Symptoms of plague include sudden onset of fever, headache, chills, and weakness and one or more swollen, tender and painful lymph nodes, according to the CDC. If untreated, the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body.

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/fleas-testi...ry?id=49177920
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