Plague Summer: Plague kills second person in Colorado

plague2Antonious Block and Death must be playing a rematch in Colorado because a second plague death has been confirmed in that state. Medical officer for the Pueblo City-County Health Department Christine Nevin-Woods said the as yet unidentified victim likely passed away of the rare septicemic form of the plague – difficult to diagnose because it lacks the swollen lymph nodes characteristic of the disease – probably infected by fleas from a dead rodent. The first victim was 16y/o Taylor Gaes from Fort Collins in northern Colorado, a baseball player from who died in June, in whose case the septicemic plague.

The plague is quite rare in the United States. “Now, it's very rare, especially in the U.S. There are only about 7 to 10 cases a year, but it still exists,” Dr. Holly Phillips told CBS. Rural states are more susceptible to outbreaks due to the presence of rodents. Health officials found a dead prairie dog with plague bacteria on the border of Pueblo, which is a sign that there may be more infected flea-carrying rodents in the area. “This highlights the importance to protect yourself and your pets from the exposure of fleas that carry plague,” public health director of the Pueblo City-County Health Department Sylvia Proud said. “Although Turkey Creek is confirmed for plague after testing a dead prairie dog, it could occur  elsewhere in Pueblo  County as well.”

All three forms of the plague – bubonic (the most common), septicemic, and pneumonic – are caused by the Yersinia pestis bacterium, which spreads mostly by fleas carried by rats, gerbils, and sometimes cats and dogs, though it can be transmitted from human to human as well. Although, and as Henry Rollins might put it, the plague used to be long ago as devastating as the first four Black Sabbath albums, today only isolated cases pop in here and there, and can be easily and effectively treated with antibiotics. Therefore, the Colorado situation will hardly reach The Stand levels. In the case of Gaes, the infection was lethal only because it was detected post-mortem. Obviously, the fact that he was already dead didn’t do wonders for his prognosis. Additionally, doctors didn’t treat it as the plague because they hadn’t recognized it as such until it was too late.

Not only animals but the climate is also held responsible. “We’ve had a very wet winter, very wet spring and it’s really a cool summer for Pueblo and we are exploding with rodents and rabbits,” program manager for the health department in Pueblo County Vicky Carlton told Colorado City new station KKTV-11. “In the area where I live, I see rodents everywhere. And that just means we have twice as many fleas, as well. So, the risk is there for pets and people. This is an unusual summer for us.” In addition to the two Colorado deaths, a girl from Los Angeles is being treated for plague which she may have contracted in Yosemite National Park.