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Officials confirm Idaho’s first human plague case since 1992

14 June 2018

Tree squirrels in Idaho are not known to carry plague. In 2015, 16 cases of plague were reported and, in 2016, there were only 4 cases.

A child in Elmore County, Idaho, has been diagnosed with the plague, according to a statement by Central District Health in Idaho. Human-to-human transmission is extremely rare. Plague continues to be a serious and potentially fatal bacterial illness.

Early diagnosis and early treatment can save lives since antibiotic treatment is effective against the plague bacteria.

The child is recovering after receiving antibiotics.

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.

There are a few plague cases every year in the USA, mostly in the rural West and especially the Southwest. Prior to this case, the last two cases reported in Idaho occurred in 1991 and 1992, with both patients fully recovering. 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.

Over the past few years, a few cases of plague have been recorded annually in New Mexico as well. Cats with plague pneumonia can give it to people.

BUBONIC: High fever, headache, chills, and weakness.

The most common type is the bubonic plague, which represents 80 to 95 percent of cases. Other animals, like rats, rabbits and chipmunks can then become infected when fleas move on from an infected animal.

Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian, especially if they may have had contact with sick or dead rodents in the desert areas south and east of Boise.

Still, the USA only gets a handful of cases - usually between one and 17 every year. Other ways people can get infected includes coming into contact with contaminated fluid, or through cough droplets.

Plague is a bigger problem in places that have a harder time shutting down outbreaks due to a lack of infrastructure, humanitarian crises, or ongoing conflicts, according to the World Health Organization.

The disease is most typically transmitted to humans from fleas who have bitten infected rodents.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the bacteria that causes plague can be found in rodents and fleas.

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. In rural areas with semi-arid forests and grasslands, these animals spread the disease amongst themselves.

Officials confirm Idaho’s first human plague case since 1992