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Idaho Child Diagnosed With Plague; Only 5th Human Case In State’s History

15 June 2018
Idaho Child Diagnosed With Plague; Only 5th Human Case In State’s History

A child in Elmore County is recovering from a plague infection, state health officials announced on Tuesday.

The case in Elmore County, just east of Boise, is the first human case in the state since the early 1990s, and is believed to be the only one reported in the United States this year.

Cases of plague in Idaho were diagnosed in squirrels as recently as 2016, though none have been found in southern Ada County or Elmore County this year.

Jeff Doerr, an epidemiologist at Southeastern Idaho Public Health, says that while the disease is still very serious, it doesn't pose the threat it once did, but it is still something to avoid.

Since 1940, only five human cases of plague have been reported in the Gem State.

If you've heard of the plague, chances are it was way back in history class in school, when you were no doubt scared shitless by tales of the bubonic plague, aka the Black Death - but at least you could breathe easily in the knowledge that it was more or less a thing of the past.

The plague is generally transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas but can be transmitted by direct contact with infected animals including rodents and pets. The Idaho Central District Health's statement said that since 1990, there have been two cases in Idaho and eight in Oregon.

Although globally people are still diagnosed with the disease, it's much more rare than it was in the 14th century, when a bubonic plague swept across Europe with a shockingly high death toll.

Much less common is the pneumonic plague, which can occur when a bubonic or septicemic plague is not treated and a person's lungs become infected.

According to the CDHD, plague among humans is rare but can be found in local ground squirrels and other rodents naturally. There may be a swelling in the lymph nodes under the jaw of pets. But despite its lurking presence, the number of human infections reported annually in the USA is very low - only about 1 to 17 for the past several decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the 1400s, approximately 50 million people died of the Black Death.

About seven people in the U.S. are infected every year, usually after being bitten by a flea or infected animal, according to the CDC.

In the USA, 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.

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.