Since April 2015, eleven cases of plague have been recorded in the U.S., and three people have died leaving the CDC no other recourse but to issue a warning to alert doctors of potential cases that may arise.
“It is unclear why the number of cases in 2015 is higher than usual,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. Many of the cases are occurring in rural and semi-rural areas in the western United States. The report lists two cases in Arizona, one in California, four in Colorado, one in Georgia, two in New Mexico and one in Oregon. The cases in California and Georgia have been linked to areas in or near Yosemite National Park in the southern Sierra Nevada. Dr. Natalie Kwit of the CDC emphasizes, “We don’t want people to panic but we do want them to be aware of the heightened risk.”
The CDC has recorded 1006 confirmed or probable human plague cases occurred in the United States between 1900 and 2012. Over 80% of United States plague cases have been the bubonic form. The plague is a rare and dangerous disease caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis and passed from humans by infected fleas and rodents typically in the wild. Many may remember how the Black Death killed around 30 – 60 percent of the population in Europe. These days, the bacteria is typically treated with antibiotics. With many antibiotic resistance strains of bacterias occurring, this begs the question. Will this plague rampantly spread like it once did?
How to Prevent the Bubonic Plague
Although the government is closely monitoring the situation, California is actually mapping where the plague is occurring in the state. It is important to note that there is no vaccination of this illness. In the past, many relied on four thieves oil to naturally protect them from this disease, however prevention is the best recourse.
Follow these tips from the CDC:
- Reduce rodent habitat around your home, work place, and recreational areas. Remove brush, rock piles, junk, cluttered firewood, and possible rodent food supplies, such as pet and wild animal food. Make your home and outbuildings rodent-proof.
- Wear gloves if you are handling or skinning potentially infected animals to prevent contact between your skin and the plague bacteria. Contact your local health department if you have questions about disposal of dead animals.
- Use repellent if you think you could be exposed to rodent fleas during activities such as camping, hiking, or working outdoors. Products containing DEET can be applied to the skin as well as clothing and products containing permethrin can be applied to clothing (always follow instructions on the label).
- Keep fleas off of your pets by applying flea control products. Animals that roam freely are more likely to come in contact with plague infected animals or fleas and could bring them into homes. If your pet becomes sick, seek care from a veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Do not allow dogs or cats that roam free in endemic areas to sleep on your bed.
- Remove garbage, clutter, brush and anything that could be a food source for rodents.
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