Human Bubonic Plague Case Treated in Idaho for First Time in Decades

A child in Idaho is recovering after contracting the bubonic plague.

Health officials in Idaho announced on Tuesday that a child, whose age and gender has not been released, is recovering after contracting the bubonic plague, the state’s first reported case of the illness in 26 years, according to USA Today.

It is not known how the child contracted the disease, though it is believed that he or she contracted it either in his/her home city in Elmore County or while on a recent trip to Oregon.

“Once in a while we have kind of a resurgence in the area south of the airport, out in the desert, all the way to Elmore County," CDHD epidemiologist Sarah Correll said in a statement, adding that the plague has previously been identified in ground squirrels in Elmore County, though “this season, no ground squirrel die offs or unusual behavior has been reported by state wildlife officials.”

The child, whose diagnoses was confirmed this week, was treated with antibiotics and is currently recovering.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the plague is most commonly contracted from bites from fleas that are infected with the bacteria, though people can also contract the disease through contact with infected tissues or fluids while handling an animal that is sick with the illness.

Symptoms of the bubonic plague, most commonly transmitted through flea bites and accounting for 80 percent of all reported cases of the plague, include sudden onset fever, headache, chills, and weakness and one or more swollen, tender, and painful lymph nodes.

Although the disease can be deadly if not properly treated, the use of antibiotics has dropped the mortality rate of the disease to 11 percent between 1990-2010, whereas in the time between 1900 and 1941, the pre-antibiotic era, the mortality rate in the United States was 66 percent. Between 1346 and 1353, the plague, also called the Black Death, killed between 75 and 200 million people in European countries.

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Currently, an average of seven human cases of the plague are reported every year in the United States, with 50 percent of all cases occurring in those between the ages of 12 and 45. Worldwide, between 1,000 and 2,000 cases of the plague are annually reported.

Although rare, two confirmed cases of the plague were reported in the Santa Fe County area of New Mexico in 2017. The confirmed cases marked the third and fourth confirmed cases in the United States that year.