Case of plague confirmed in Idaho child; first there since 1992

Desiree Burns
June 14, 2018

The child, who has not been identified, is now home after a course of antibiotics in a local hospital, Christine Myron, spokesperson for the Central District Health Department, said on Wednesday. Tree squirrels in Idaho are not known to carry plague.

Health officials confirm an Idaho child was infected with the plague this week, the first human diagnosis in the state since 1992.

Local health officials suspect that the boy contracted the disease when he was playing outside on a family trip to OR, but they don't know for sure.

The plague is most prevalent in Africa and is also found in Asia and South America.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare issued a news release Tuesday afternoon saying the child is recovering from the bacterial disease.

According to the CDC, symptoms can include fever, headache, chills, extreme weakness and, depending on the type of plague, skin discoloration, swollen and painful lymph nodes, or pneumonia.

"The case serves as a reminder to recreationists in southern Idaho that plague is risky to people and pets, but with proper awareness, precautions, and prompt treatment when needed, plague should not discourage you from enjoying the Idaho outdoors".

"People can decrease their risk by treating their pets for fleas and avoiding contact with wildlife", Correll said.

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Plague bacteria is mostly transmitted through rodents and fleas. Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian, especially if they may have had contact with sick or dead rodents.

Still, the United States only gets a handful of cases - usually between one and 17 every year. Other ways people can get infected includes coming into contact with contaminated fluid, or through cough droplets. Those outbreaks, like a recent severe one in Madagascar, can become more risky.

While plague in humans is rare, experts say it occurs naturally in some rodent populations, including ground squirrels in Idaho.

In recent decades, an average of seven human plague cases have been reported each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

As in, the "Black Death" is still around?

The plague killed some 60 percent of Europeans during the 1300's, but it is no longer as deadly, with a mortality rate of around 10%. But fortunately, antibiotics make it possible to treat most cases now.

According to the most recent data, there were no deaths from plague in 2016, but four in 2015.

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