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Idaho Boy Diagnosed With Bubonic Plague, What To Know About The Disease

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A case of the plague is confirmed this week in a young Idaho boy, but he is expected to make a full recovery after receiving proper medication.

The plague has a bad reputation in history, but it is no longer as prevalent as before. What are some important things to know about the plague?

Bubonic Plague In Idaho Boy

This week, a young boy from Elmore County, Idaho was confirmed to have fallen ill with the plague. The Central District Health Department confirmed the case, along with the announcement that the child is already on the way to recovery after receiving proper antibiotic treatment.

It is unclear whether the boy contracted the disease from his locality or whether he caught it from a recent trip to Oregon. Authorities note that both locations do have records of the plague in wildlife.

In fact, since 1990, eight human cases of the plague have been confirmed in Oregon and two human cases have been reported in Idaho. This season, however, there were no reported unusual ground squirrel behavior or a die-off.

The Plague And Rodents

The plague is an infectious disease that may affect rodents, humans, and other animals. It is caused by the Yersinia pestis bacteria, which can be found in places around the world including the United States, and may be naturally occurring in some types of rodents.

In humans, the disease is often contracted through the bite of an infected flea, by having direct contact with the tissues or bodily fluids of a live or dead infected animal, and through inhaling respiratory droplets from an infected animal.

It is for this reason that authorities in Idaho are now calling for the public to avoid interacting with wild rodents, whether dead or alive and to also keep pets from hunting them as they can also contract the plague.

Bubonic And Pneumonic Plague

There are two main forms of the plague, namely Bubonic and Pneumonic plague. Bubonic plague is often transmitted through the bite of an infected flea.

Once the bacteria have entered the body, it travels to the lymphatic system where it replicates and causes the lymph nodes to become swollen, tense, and painful. In advance stages, these inflamed lymph nodes or “buboes” can turn into sores that are filled with pus.

It is rare that Bubonic plague will be transmitted from one person to another. However, in advance stages, the disease could travel to the lungs and turn into the more severe type of plague, which is the pneumonic plague.

In this case, the disease can easily be passed from person to person through air droplets, and if left untreated, could be fatal. However, recovery rates are rather high if the disease is detected early on, or within 24 hours after the onset of symptoms.

Symptoms of bubonic plague include fever, chills, headache, or having one or more swollen lymph nodes, while pneumonic plague symptoms are rather similar but may include rapidly developing pneumonia, shortness of breath, watery or bloody mucus, cough, and chest pain. Treatment often includes antibiotics and supportive therapy.

In the United States, an average of seven cases of human plague is reported every year in the last decades. They are usually of the bubonic form and has affected all ages, from infants up to 96 years old. Worldwide, there are about 1,000 to 2,000 cases of the plague every year, and it is most endemic in Peru, Madagascar, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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