California resident tests positive for the PLAGUE after being ‘bitten by an infected flea while walking their dog’ in the state’s first case in five years
- Health officials believe the person was bitten by an infected flea while walking their dog in South Lake Tahoe, California
- The patient is being treated by a medical professional and is recovering at home
- There hadn’t been a case of plague in California since 2015 when two people fell ill after being exposed to infected rodents or fleas in Yosemite National Park
- According to the CDC, the US has about seven cases of plague every year
A California resident has tested positive for the plague, making it the first case in the state in five years.
Health officials believe the person was walking his or her dog in South Lake Tahoe when he or she was bitten by an infected flea, according to a press release from the El Dorado County Health and Human Services Agency.
The patient, whose name, age and sex has not been revealed, is currently being cared for by a medical professional and is recovering at home, the release said.
It comes less than two weeks after a New Mexico man in his 20s died from the state’s second reported case of plague this year.
Health officials believe the person was bitten by an infected flea while walking their dog in South Lake Tahoe (pictured), California, and is currently recovering at home
Plague is caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis, and is usually transmitted to humans from the bites of infected fleas.
Symptoms, such as fever, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes, typically appear within three to seven days.
The disease is deadly, but can be treated with antibiotics if it is detected early enough.
The World Health Organization says the mortality rate is estimated between 30 percent and 100 percent if left untreated.
Cases of human plague are quite rare with an average of seven per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, infections are more common in some areas of the US than others.
‘Plague is naturally present in many parts of California, including higher elevation areas of El Dorado County,’ Dr Nancy Williams, El Dorado County Public Health Officer, said in the press release.
‘It’s important that individuals take precautions for themselves and their pets when outdoors, especially while walking, hiking and/or camping in areas where wild rodents are present.’
There hadn’t been a case of plague (pictured) in California since 2015 when two people fell ill after being exposed to infected rodents or fleas in Yosemite National Park
Between 2016 and 2019, health officials have found 20 rodents with evidence of exposure to the bacterium that causes the disease, the release said.
However, there were no reports of plague-associated illnesses during this time period.
Multiple areas around South Lake Tahoe now have signs advising the public of the presence of plague and ways to prevent exposure.
The last reported case of plague in California was in 2015 after two people were exposed to infected rodents or fleas in Yosemite National Park. Both recovered.
Prior to that incident, there hadn’t been a case in the Golden State since 2006.
The disease caused a global epidemic impacting Europe in the mid-1300s and leading to the so-called Black Death, which killed more than 20 million people, about one-third of the continent’s population.
In addition to the New Mexico death, Chinese officials have sealed off a city and a village in the Inner Mongolia region after reports of bubonic plague deaths in the country this year.
WHAT ARE THE THREE TYPES OF PLAGUE?
There are two main forms of plague infection both caused by the same bacteria: Yesinia pestis.
Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague and is spread by the bite of an infected flea. The infection spreads to immune glands called lymph nodes, causing them to become swollen and painful and may progress to open sores. Human-to-human transmission of bubonic plague is rare and it’s usually caught from animals.
If plague infects the lungs – either by the bubonic form progression through the body or by catching the infection from an infected patient or animal’s breath – it is called pneumonic plague.
Pneumonic plague is significantly more deadly and can take hold in as little as 24 hours. Human-to-human spread this way is easy and, if the condition’s not diagnosed and treated quickly, it is often fatal.
Symptoms of both forms of infection include pain the limbs and head, fever, vomiting and weakness. Pneumonic plague also causes coughing and coughing up blood.
Septicaemic plague occurs when the infection spreads to the blood. This is much rarer and can cause the blood to clot around the body and it’s almost always fatal.
Source: World Health Organization