American Gets Deadliest Form of Rare Plague

Colorado case likely started with dead dog, officials say

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 12, 2014 2:57 PM CDT

(Newser) – The rarest and deadliest form of plague has infected a man in Colorado, but so far officials only say that he's being treated—and may have contracted the disease from his dog, Bloomberg reports. "He’s on treatment long enough to not be transmissible," says a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The pneumonic plague he contracted is airborne and can spread through sneezing and coughing, but the spokeswoman said that "we don't think it's out in our air. We think it's in our dead animal populations and dead rodent populations."

The man may have gotten sick from his dog because it died suddenly and was also infected by the disease, she added. (A statement from her office notes that fleas often spread the disease by leaving the carcass of an infected animal to infest other animals and bite people.) But don't worry much: Only about seven Americans get any form of plague each year, and Colorado has only seen 60 cases since 1957. While symptoms aren't fun (muscle pain, high fever, and nausea are among them), it can be treated if the infected party gets antibiotics in the first 24 hours. "Pneumonic plague is not very common at all," a doctor tells NBC 9 Colorado. "The problem is without treatment pneunomic plague is about 90% fatal." (Last year, a couple got bubonic plague after being bitten by fleas in New Mexico.)

  (Shutterstock)
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