Idaho Child Diagnosed with State’s First Case of Plague in Humans Since 1992

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An unidentified child in Elmore County, Idaho, is being treated for the state’s first human case of plague in over 25 years.

The child is being treated with antibiotics, and is expected to recover. It is unknown whether they were exposed to the disease at home, or abroad in a recent trip to Oregon.

“Plague is spread to humans through a bite from an infected flea. People can decrease their risk by treating their pets for fleas and avoiding contact with wildlife,” said Central District Health Department epidemiologist Sarah Correll. “Wear insect repellent, long pants and socks when visiting plague affected areas.”

The CDHD says that the spread of plague to human hosts is rare, but is often naturally found in wild rodents such as squirrels. In the spring and summer, when animals are more active, the risk of infection increases. To prevent exposure, no one should ever feed wild rodents, nor handle any that are sick or dead.

Additionally, the CDHD recommends keeping your pets and their food away from any potentially infected creatures, and always use appropriate flea control products to reduce their risk of infection. If you or your pet becomes ill—especially with sudden and severe fever—seek medical attention immediately.

The bubonic or “black” plague decimated Europe in the Middle Ages, but can now be treated with relative ease with appropriate medical intervention. Still, it can all too easily spread if left unchecked. In November 2017, nearly 2,000 people in Madagascar were infected, resulting in over 200 deaths.

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