First human case of plague since 1992 found in Elmore County

Jun 15, 2018, 02:19
First human case of plague since 1992 found in Elmore County

A boy in the U.S. state of Idaho is recovering after contracting plague - the first human case in the state in more than two decades, health officials say.

The child, from Elmore County, is recovering after receiving antibiotics, the Idaho Statesman Journal reported. It's possible that this case came from an animal bite or a fleabite, Christine Myron, public information officer at the Central District Health Department, told Newsweek. Plague was identified in 2015 and 2016 in ground squirrels found in the desert south of Interstate 84 in Ada County.

Officials are racing to determine whether he contracted the disease in Idaho or during a recent family trip to Oregon.

Plague has been found historically in wildlife in both states.

The plague was brought to the United States around 1900 by rat-infested steamships that had sailed from areas with high infection rates.

Humans usually get the disease after being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the plague bacterium.

Pneumonic plague, which is based in the lungs, "is the most virulent form of plague" and "can be fatal" when not diagnosed and treated early on, according to the WHO. In most cases, there is a painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck areas. If the infection is not treated right away, the inflamed lymph nodes can turn into open sores filled with pus, according to the World Health Organization.

The disease dates back to the Middle Ages, when it killed millions in a Europe, before the age of antibiotics.

"People can decrease their risk by treating their pets for fleas and avoiding contact with wildlife", CDHD epidemiologist Sarah Correll said in a statement.

A state health official told the Idaho Statesman newspaper that the public is advised to "wear insect repellant, long trousers and socks when visiting plague affected areas".

In wild rodent populations that harbor the bacteria, plague can thrive for a long time before humans come into contact with it.

Common symptoms of plague in humans include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, and weakness.

Clean up areas near your home where rodents can live, such as woodpiles and lots with tall grasses and weeds.

Talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product on pets as not all products are safe for cats, dogs or children.