Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) reports another Michigan native has contracted the bubonic plague, making this the 14th case of the year. Previous reports show that cases of the bubonic plague have also showed up in Colorado, where the resident had been visiting.
The Colorado case took the life of an unidentified individual, making it the first case of the bubonic plague in the U.S. since 2004. In that case it was believed the individual contracted the bubonic plague from fleas on a dead animal.
Thirteen other cases have emerged across the U.S., and it has resulted in four deaths so far. Last year there were 10 cases of the bubonic plague, but those cases did not result in any deaths. It is still unclear as to why there is an influx of the bubonic plague.
Dr. Eden Wells from the MDHHS said, “People who are traveling and recreating outdoors in the western U.S. should be aware of the risk for exposure to plague. Use insect repellent on your clothing and skin and make sure that any pets that may be along are receiving regular flea treatments.”
Although the bubonic plague can be passed by fleas, it is not possible to pass on the bubonic plague by human-to-human contact. Additionally, the plague is treatable by antibiotics but does have potential to be life-threatening.
The plague is caused by a bacteria called Yersinia pestis and can be found in wild rodents and fleas. Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. has seen three major plague epidemics: Justinian plague in the 6th century, the Black Death in the 1300s and the Modern Plague in the late 19th century which began in poorer communities in China and spread globally.
Modern cases of the plague in the U.S. have remained in the western states like New Mexico, north Arizona, south Colorado, California, south Oregon and far west Nevada. It is still unclear as to why the plague would reside in this part of the U.S. as opposed to any other parts.