US on alert for third case of bubonic plague in humans: What is it and how is it spread?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depending on the country and other factors, 30% to 60% of those infected with bubonic plague die.

Bubonic plague is a serious disease that has caused havoc in the past, but can be successfully treated with early medical intervention. Taken from X //

Colorado health authorities confirmed on Tuesday a case of human contagion of bubonic plague in Pueblo County, in the south of the state, the third case of this disease in 2024 after those detected in Oregon in February and in New Mexico last March.

According to the Pueblo County Department of Public Health and Environment (PDPHE), one resident was infected with the Yersinia pestis bacteria, which causes the disease, but the location and mode of infection are unknown.

The patient had been hospitalized last week and his condition has since improved, according to Trysten Garcia, a spokesman for PDPHE.

An average of only seven cases of bubonic plague are detected in the United States each year. The last outbreak in the country occurred in Los Angeles in the 1920s, with about 30 confirmed deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Because bubonic plague is endemic in southern Colorado and across large parts of the western United States (Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Oregon), it is not clear how the disease spread, but the most common way is for an infected flea to jump from a rodent to a human.

However, according to the CDC, transmission can also occur if a person simply touches the skin of an infected animal (usually rats or prairie dogs) or through the coughing of such animals. In addition, humans can spread the virus to other humans by coughing.

PDPHE asked that pet owners not allow their pets to hunt rodents or walk through prairie dog colonies.

She also warned that flea collars are not necessarily effective against plague-infested fleas, so people were advised to avoid sleeping next to their pets.

“Plague can be successfully treated with antibiotics, but an infected person must be treated promptly to avoid serious complications or death.”said Alicia Solís, director of PDPHE.

There is no vaccine against this disease, which can be fatal (as happened to the infected person in New Mexico) if not treated in time, since the bacteria that causes plague can infect the lungs (pneumonic plague) or the blood.

Bubonic plague, also known simply as “the plague,” is a serious infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestisThis disease has been responsible for several devastating pandemics throughout history, including the Plague of Justinian in the 6th century and the Black Death in the 14th century, which killed millions of people in Europe.

Although less common today, bubonic plague still exists and can be fatal if not treated promptly.

Awareness of its symptoms and modes of transmission, along with appropriate preventive measures, can help reduce the risk of bubonic plague outbreaks today. Pixabay //

Bubonic plague is primarily transmitted through the bite of infected fleas found on rodents such as rats and mice. It can also spread through direct contact with bodily fluids or tissues of infected animals. In rare cases, it can be transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets if a person has pneumonic plague.

Symptoms can develop after an incubation period lasting between one day and one week, according to the WHO. These symptoms include sudden fever and chills, severe headache, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting, as well as swollen lymph nodes called buboes, which give the most common form of the disease its name.

Bubonic plague, or the Black Death, caused an estimated 50 million deaths in Europe in the 14th century, with subsequent epidemics in China and India. Today, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar and Peru are the three countries with the highest incidence of endemic bubonic plague, according to the WHO.

With information from EFE.

Bacteria in the body. Pixabay //
 
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