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Idaho child diagnosed with plague; only 5th human case in state’s history

By Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com  |  Posted Jun 13th, 2018 @ 9:06am


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MOUNTAIN HOME, Idaho — A child in Elmore County, Idaho, is recovering from plague in the first human case of the bacterial disease in Idaho since 1992.

Central District Health Department epidemiologists say it is not known whether the child was exposed to plague in Idaho or during a recent trip to Oregon, EastIdahoNews.com reported.

Since 1940, only five human cases of plague have been reported in the Gem State. The last two reported cases occurred in 1991 and 1992, with both patients fully recovering.

Plague has been found in wildlife in many western states. Humans usually get the disease after being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the plague bacterium. It can also be contracted by handling an animal infected with plague.

Plague is infamous for killing millions of people in Europe during the Middle Ages. Today, modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague but without prompt treatment, the disease can cause serious illness or death.

Epidemiologists say this case serves as a reminder that plague is dangerous to people and pets, but the disease should not discourage recreationists from enjoying the Idaho outdoors.

People can greatly reduce their risk of becoming infected with plague by taking simple precautions, including avoiding contact with wild rodents, their fleas and rodent carcasses.

Health officials recommend:

  • Do not feed rodents in picnic or campground areas and never handle sick or dead rodents.

  • Keep your pets from roaming and hunting ground squirrels or other rodents in affected desert areas.

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

  • Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian, especially if they may have had contact with sick or dead rodents.

  • See your doctor if you have any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever after being in a plague-endemic area.

  • Clean up areas near your home where rodents can live, such as woodpiles, and put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as away as possible.

  • Don’t leave pet food and water where rodents or other wild animals can access them.

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