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American Child Gets Disease That Killed Half of Europe

It's Idaho's first human case in 26 years
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 16, 2018 11:30 AM CDT
US Child Comes Down With the Bubonic Plague
   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – An Idaho child has come down with a rare illness that once tormented medieval Europe. Details are scant, but the child contracted bubonic plague in Idaho or on a recent visit to Oregon and is recovering with antibiotics, per the Idaho Statesman and Oregonian. Where the child lives, in Elmore County, bubonic plague was found in ground squirrels in 2015 and 2016. "Plague is spread to humans through a bite from an infected flea," an Idaho health official says in a statement. "Fleas spread the disease between animals. The disease can also be transmitted to humans by direct contact with infected animals or their fleas."

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American plague cases are pretty rare—this is Idaho's first in 26 years, and the country sees an average of seven annually, most often in Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico, per Buzzfeed. But there are roughly 1,000-2,500 annual plague cases worldwide, and an outbreak in Madagascar in 2017 killed 209 people. Modern medicine prevents most fatalities, but health officials advise taking preventative steps, like not touching wild rodents, keeping pets from rodents, and using flea control on pets. Symptoms include weakness, headaches, fever, and chills, and if you have any unexpected illness including a sudden, intense fever, see your doctor. (A Colorado teenager died from the plague in 2015.)

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