An unidentified child in Idaho is recovering after receiving treatment for the plague. Epidemiologists with the Central District Health Department said today it is not known whether the child was exposed to plague in Idaho or during a recent trip to Oregon.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the plague was first introduced in the U.S.in 1900 by rat-infested steamships.
The plague is most prevalent in Africa and is also found in Asia and South America.
The health department reminds southern Idaho recreationists that plague is risky to people and pets and for people to be aware of what to look for when in the Idaho outdoors.
According to health officials, plague in humans is rare and is spread through a bite from an infected flea. "People can decrease their risk by treating their pets for fleas and avoiding contact with wildlife", Sarah Correll, a Central District Health Department epidemiologist, said in a statement. It said that in 2015 and 2016, the disease was discovered in ground squirrels in Elmore County as well as nearby Ada County. Since those discoveries, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, public health districts and the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare have been working to raise awareness of plague in the area each year. Humans get the plague through direct contact with infected animals or fleas.
Do not feed rodents in picnic or campground areas and never handle sick or dead rodents.
Keep your pets from roaming and hunting ground squirrels or other rodents in affected desert areas.
Most of the time, people are exposed to plague when they or their pets go near wild or dead animals carrying fleas that are hosts to Yersinia pestis bacteria. In most cases, there is a painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck areas. Plague symptoms in cats and dogs are fever, lethargy and loss of appetite, with possible swelling in the lymph node under the jaw.
Plague bacteria. A child in Idaho was infected with the plague.
Plague can be a very severe disease in people, with a fatality rate of up to 60 percent. The last two reported cases occurred in 1991 and 1992, with both patients fully recovering.
CDHD says prompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment can greatly reduce the risk of death in people and pets.