Girl Gets the Plague After Playing Near Dead Squirrel

Sierra Jane Downing recovering after some medical sleuthing

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Sep 7, 2012 12:11 PM CDT | Updated Sep 9, 2012 12:03 PM CDT

(Newser) – Another case of bubonic plague is making headlines in the US, this one involving a 7-year-old girl who contracted it after encountering a dead squirrel on a camping trip in Colorado. Animal lover Sierra Jane Downing wanted to bury the squirrel, and disregarded her parents' instructions to leave the animal alone. She snuck back to it, leaving her sweatshirt on the ground near it before later tying the shirt around her waist, reports ABC News. She apparently contracted the disease from insects near the carcass and got ill a few days later; her fever spiked to 107 and she went into a seizure.

The girl nearly died, but doctors zeroed in on the rare cause after learning about the camping trip and her exposure to the squirrel, reports the AP. After a course of antibiotics, she's expected to be good as new. Sierra Jane's case—the first in Colorado since 2006—follows that of a man who contracted the plague, or Black Death, in Oregon. And health officials in New Mexico, meanwhile, have seen an uptick in cases among the affluent.

Seven-year-old Sierra Jane Downing from Pagosa Springs, Colo., smiles in a Denver hospital.
Seven-year-old Sierra Jane Downing from Pagosa Springs, Colo., smiles in a Denver hospital.   (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Seven-year-old Sierra Jane Downing with her mother, Darcy.
Seven-year-old Sierra Jane Downing with her mother, Darcy.   (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
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