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article imagePlague claims life of adult in Colorado

By Brian Booker     Aug 6, 2015 in Health
The plague, one of the most fearsome diseases in history, has claimed another life after an adult Colorado resident succumbed to the disease in recent days.
Details on who died remain unknown, but the Pueblo City-County Health Department has confirmed that the deceased was an adult. It is believed that the deceased contracted the disease after being bitten from a flea originating from a rodent.
The case marks the first case of bubonic plague in the county since 2004.
Last year an outbreak of plague, believed to have originated from fleas on a pitbull, infected four people. It is also believed that the disease was transmitted from person-to-person, marking the first time that the plague had accomplished such transmission in the United States since 1924.
The plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis and comes in at least five forms- bubonic,septicemic, pharyngeal, meningeal, and pneumonic. It is unknown which form claimed the life of the Colorado resident.
The plague is one of the deadliest diseases known to man, having claimed the lives of an estimated 25 million people, and having wiped out as much as 60 percent of Europe's population during the so-called “dark ages”.
If left untreated, the mortality rate can exceed 50 percent, with most victims perishing within the first four days.
Caused by bacteria transmitted by the fleas found on rats and other small mammals, the plague ravaged the populations of the old world and crippled European society, but over the last several decades aggressive public health policies have nearly eliminated the disease.
That's what makes the case on Colorado so interesting and worrisome. Only a handful of cases are reported in the United States each year, but each time a case is reported, health officials spring into action.
Between 1990 and 2012 just over 1,000 cases of plague were reported, though the number of reported cases has been tapering off in recent years.
Most cases in the United States occur either in Southern California, or near the intersecting borders of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona.
The plague is still an active disease, though is a major health problem only in developing countries. The disease is most active in sub-Saharan Africa, and generally crops up in small towns and villages. Approximately 1,000 to 2,000 cases are reported to the WHO each year.
The last major outbreak to occur outside of Africa was in India when five states saw the disease infect at least 700 people and claim more than 50 lives. Even though the outbreak was relatively small, widespread fear of the disease spurred a mass migration as people tried to escape possible infection.
More about Plague, Bubonic plague, Public health
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