The US health department have confirmed that the bubonic plague has killed a second person in Colorado.
Following the death of 16-year-old Taylor Gaes earlier in the year, this latest victim is older but their identify hasn’t yet been made public.
The agency said in a press release that “the individual may have contracted the disease from fleas on a dead rodent or animal.” It’s the first such case of someone in Pueblo County contracting the plague since 2004.
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“This highlights the importance to protect yourself and your pets from the exposure of fleas that carry plague,” said Sylvia Proud, the city-county public health director.
A dead prairie dog in the western part of Pueblo County is the only animal, thus far, confirmed to have the plague in the immediate area.
The county isn’t the only part of Colorado recently afflicted with the plague.
A teenager in Larimer County died earlier in 2015 from the plague. That was the year’s first such case in Colorado, after eight in 2014 — which was a major jump from the one instance reported in the state over the previous seven years — according to the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment.
None of the 17 cases reported between 2005 and 2015 were in Pueblo County.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found, in a report released April 30, that a pit bull was at the heart of a plague outbreak that sickened four people last year.
That report was especially significant in that it suggested that there might have been a human-to-human transmission. That hasn’t happened in the United States since 1924.
The dog-to-human transmission was unexpected, according to Colorado’s Tri-County Health Department. The team that investigated the case said they could only find one other case of dog-to-human transmission in the medical literature. That was a 2009 case in China.
The CDC says about seven people get the plague — over 80% of which have been in the bubonic form — every year in the United States. While it can be life-threatening, with modern medicine such as antibiotics and antimicrobials it is usually not deadly, as it was in the Middle Ages when millions died.