A young Colorado girl is reported to be recovering nicely in a local hospital after being diagnosed with Bubonic Plague. Sierra Jane Downing, 7 years-old, was on a picnic with her parents when she found a dead squirrel and asked to bury it.
ABC News quotes Sierra Jane's mother as saying: "We told her to stay away from it, but when she went down to the creek to play with her 13-year-old sister, Sierra Jane went back to the squirrel, put her sweatshirt down next to it, and then picked up the sweatshirt and put it around her waist,"
Approximately 5 days after the picnic, Sierra Jane began running a fever and vomiting. By that evening she was still vomiting and suffered a seizure. Sensing this was more than a common stomach virus, Sierra's father rushed her to the local hospital near Pagosa Springs, CO. Her blood work, x-rays and symptoms had doctors stumped. Doctors consulted with other physicians at other hospitals and finally transferred her to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver. When she arrived she was in serious, but stable condition. Her condition deteriorated and she was transferred to the pediatric ICU for septic shock.
Dr. Jennifer Snow, a physician at the hospital, suspected Bubonic Plague based on Sierra Jane's symptoms, the history of where she'd been, and an online journal's article about a teen with similar symptoms. Dr. Wendi Drummond, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the hospital, agreed and ordered a specific antibiotic for Sierra Jane, the Associated Press reports. Additional tests were run and the diagnosis of Bubonic Plague was confirmed.
In an interview with ABC 7 News, Dr. Drummond said "We treat a fair number of children who present with septic shock, so we are accustomed to seeing very ill children. In this particular case, there were some very unusual features in her presentation and history which led me to suspect something more rare and serious."
This plague patient is displaying a swollen, ruptured inguinal lymph node, or buboe. After the incubation period of 2-6 days, symptoms of the plague appear including severe malaise, headache, shaking chills, fever, and pain and swelling, or adenopathy, in the affected regional lymph nodes, also known as buboes.
This was the first bubonic plague case Drummond, Snow and their other colleagues had ever seen and the first first human case in Colorado since 2006. "I credit them for thinking outside the box," Dr. Tracy Butler, medical director of the hospital's pediatric intensive unit, told the Associated Press.
According the the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague. It occurs when an infected flea bites a person or when materials contaminated with Y. pestis enter through a break in a person's skin. Patients develop symptoms that can including swollen, tender lymph glands, fever, headache, chills, and weakness. Other symptoms may include muscle pain and seizures. Quick treatment is essential according to MedlinePlus. If treatment is not received within 24 hours of when the first symptoms occur, death may occur.
The last time there was a Bubonic Plague epidemic in the United States was 1924-1925, when
Center for Disease Control
A CDC map of reported Bubonic Plague cases.
the disease hit the city of Los Angeles. Since that time there have been sporadic cases reported with an average of 10 to 20 reported cases each year. A map by the CDC shows that the majority of reported cases between 1970 and 2010 occurred in Midwestern and western US states. According to Emedtv there are 1,000 to 3,000 cases of plague each year worldwide.
Bubonic Plague ran rampant through Europe in the the 1300s killing nearly one-third of Europe's population. It became known as "Black Death" because infected areas of the skin and buboes (ruptured lymph nodes) would become dark or black color as the disease progresses.