Human case of bubonic plague confirmed in the US

Purple cells of plague bacteria (Yersinia pestis) in a computer illustration.

The bubonic plague is still around and deadly, but it’s rare and it can be cured (Picture: Kateryna Kon/Science Photo Library/Getty Images)

A case of bubonic plague, responsible for the Black Death, has been detected in a human in the US state of Colorado.

Health officials are urging people to seek medical attention if they have symptoms of the disease that killed up to 50 million people from 1346 to 1353.

‘We advise all individuals to protect themselves and their pets from plague’, said Alicia Solis, from the Pueblo County’s Office of Communicable Disease and Emergency Preparedness.

The county’s health department had launched an investigation into a potential human case last Friday after preliminary tests indicated the presence of the Yersinia pestis bacteria that causes it.

A positive case was confirmed on Monday. But what are the symptoms people should be looking out for, how is the plague transmitted, and is there a cure?

How does the Bubonic plague spread?

Bubonic plague is caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis, usually found in rodents, small mammals and their fleas.

‘Human to human transmission of bubonic plague is rare’, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). But every now and then, cases do appear.

People can be infected through flea bites, direct contact with infected bodily fluids, and the inhalation of droplets breathed out by an infected person or animal.

It can only be spread from human to human when the infected person develops pneumonic plague, the most serious form of the disease.

This is how the virus is believed to have wreaked havoc in the Middle Ages, when the a pandemic known as the Black Death wiped out up to half of Europe’s population, making it one of the deadliest in history.

However, body lice may have been just as responsible for spreading the plague as rats and fleas, a recent study suggests.

A lab study suggests that human body lice are more efficient at transmitting Yersinia pestis than previously thought.

The findings, published in the journal PLoS Biology, support the possibility that the parasites may have contributed to previous pandemics.

Rats have long been thought to help spread the plague (Picture: Getty/iStockphoto)

Dr David Bland conducted the research with colleagues at the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases based in Maryland.

‘Y. pestis has been the culprit behind numerous pandemics, including the Black Death of the Middle Ages that killed millions of people in Europe,’ he said.

‘It naturally cycles between rodents and fleas, and fleas sometimes infect humans through bites – thus, fleas and rats are thought to be the primary drivers of plague pandemics.

‘Body lice – which feed on human blood – can also carry Y. pestis, but are widely considered to be too inefficient at spreading it to contribute substantially to outbreaks.

‘However, the few studies that have addressed lice transmission efficiency have disagreed considerably.’

Dr Bland and his team conducted a series of lab experiments in which body lice fed on blood samples containing Y. pestis.

Human cases of bubonic plague are rare, …read more

Source:: Metro


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