Idaho child diagnosed with plague; only fifth human case in state history

14 June, 2018, 06:55 | Author: Kara Nash
  • CDCA graphic from the CDC shows the cycles of plague transmission in the United States

The Central District Health Department says it's unclear if the child was exposed to the disease in Idaho or during a recent trip to Oregon.

The most common type is the bubonic plague, which represents 80 to 95 percent of cases. That would only happen through close proximity to someone suffering from the variation of the disease known as pneumonic plague.

An Elmore County child is the first with a confirmed human case of plague 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.

A child in Idaho is recovering after being treated for the bubonic plague this week. The symptoms include fever, chills, weakness, and headache, followed by very painful and swollen lymph nodes, referred to as "buboes".

When a child in Idaho had a spiking fever, his parents rushed him in to a health care provider this week and were surprised to learn that he had an unlikely case of the bubonic plague.

The plague is caused by a bacteria called Yersinia pestis, which is transmitted by fleas.


One of the ways to avoid the plague is to prevent contact with infected fleas by wearing repellent during activities such as camping, hiking, working outdoors. Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian, especially if they may have had contact with sick or dead rodents. When a case does crop up in the U.S., disease detectives try to find every person an infected individual came into contact with. Those outbreaks, like a recent severe one in Madagascar, can become more unsafe.

According to the CDHD, plague among humans is rare but can be found in local ground squirrels and other rodents naturally.

Ken Gage, a researcher focused on vector-borne disease at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told NPR in 2014 that there are a number of rodents in the American West that are susceptible to plague.

In the US, people can contract the plague when disposing of squirrels or mice that died from the infection or traveled to an area where infected animals live. The disease was later spread from urban rats to rural rodent populations, and a small number of cases have since emerged in rural areas, according to the CDC.

Although the idea of the plague sounds dire, another "black death" is not coming. "But they can also jump on humans, or on dogs, or coyotes, or cats, which aren't the right hosts, but unfortunately those animals can be bitten by the fleas and get plague".

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

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