This Monday, September 25, 2023, a case of plague was reported in Archuleta County in Colorado in the United States. The deceased man is the second case recorded this year in the country. On the American continent, approximately seven cases are reported each year.
As reported by San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH), a case of plague was recorded in Archuleta County, Colorado, this Monday, September 25. The man died. This is the second case this year, according to authorities. From 2010 to 2015, the WHO recorded 3,248 cases of plague worldwide, including 584 deaths.
50,000 cases of plague recorded between 1990 and 2020
Known as the “black death,” the plague was responsible for 50 million deaths in 14th century Europe, according to l’OMS. If some thought it had disappeared, that is not the case. Between 1990 and 2020, the WHO recorded nearly 50,000 human cases in 26 countries in Africa, Asia and America, according to the Pasteur Institute. Although the disease is no longer as deadly as it was in the 14th century thanks to antibiotics, it is still present across the globe.
If on the American continent the main focus is in Peru, the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report seven human cases of plague each year in America. This mainly affects rural areas in the west and southwest. And researchers struggle to explain the reasons. Some mention the rather humid nature of the soil, particularly in Florida, and the habits of local rodents.
Not present in Oceania and Antarctica
Currently, sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected part of the world, along with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and Madagascar. The latter identifies “the most human cases of plague in the world (between 250 and 500 cases per year)” explains the Pasteur Institute. In Asia, the most active outbreaks are in China. In 2020, cases were also recorded in Mongolia.
However, the bacteria is not present in Oceania or Antarctica. In Europe no cases have been reported recently: “In France, the last cases to occur date from 1945 in Corsica”, according to the Pasteur Institute.
Two forms of plague
Plague is a bacterial zoonosis (which passes from animals to humans) caused by Yersinia pestis, which is generally found in small mammals and the fleas that parasitize them. Today we observe two forms of plague: bubonic plague and pneumonic plague.
The first, most common, is due to the bite of an infected flea. The disease results in swelling of the lymph nodes, the buboes. But it can progress and spread to the lungs and lead to the most serious form of the disease: pneumonic plague. The latter, very virulent, has an incubation period of 24 hours and can be transmitted between humans by respiratory droplets. It is fatal if not diagnosed and treated in time (within 24 hours of symptoms).
More cases during the summer
Although it remains a very rare infection, those who are unlucky enough to catch it present symptoms such as an acute febrile state, a sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, body pain, a state of weakness, vomiting and nausea.
Cases are generally more numerous during the summer due to insect bites which proliferate more but also from wild animals. It is possible that pets can carry the disease. In the western United States, this mainly concerns prairie dogs and other rodents.
However, there is no need to worry at the moment according to the experts. Antibiotic treatments against Enterobacteriaceae work well if administered on time.
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