Friday, August 14, 2015

Record Plague Cases in Colorado Cause Concern

St. Sebastian's Chapel in Partenkirchen, Germany, with paintings representing the Black Death.  Photographed by me while visiting in May, 2013. Over one thousand bodies of plague victims were buried in unmarked graves in the church's cemetery.

As our visits to plague town in Germany two years ago showed us, the bubonic plague is no joke, and tens of thousands died in small German towns as well as cities- often in horrific agony. Many Americans seem content that the plague has long since died out and is only of historical interest, but they'd be mistaken. 

In fact, the plague is alive an well in these United States, especially here in Colorado where at least 16 cases and two deaths have been documented thus far this year. This is more cases than in the prior ten years. In Larimer County, 16 year old athlete Taylor Gaes died of plague in June, four days after showing symptoms on his birthday. Then, in Pueblo Country a man died after walking his dog on his own land - an apparent victim of flea bites from prairie dogs - a common but misnamed rodent in Colo.

A search of his property found plague -bearing fleas in a prairie dog colony that extended from his land to adjoining properties. Everyone was alerted by the Pueblo County Health Dept. within five miles.,

The increase in cases is being blamed in some quarters on the wet winter and wet spring - with much higher than normal rain totals across the Front Range.  As this has occurred, the rodent population - including squirrels, chipmunks, rats and rabbits has multiplied, as well as prairie dog numbers,

Pet owners are now being warned to treat their animals - cats and dogs - with a durable flea-killing gel and also to make use of flea collars.

Plague is believed to have arrived in North America in boats coming in to San Francisco from Asia around 1900.  This was during a worldwide outbreak that ravaged millions.  The infected rodents then carried it eastwards. In Colorado, the first reported case was observed near Telluride in 1941 and the disease is now permanently entrenched in the state.

The good news is that this terrible disease that once wiped out an estimated one third of Europe's population can now be successfully treated with antibiotics. But that is only if caught early and that means recognizing symptoms, including: high fever, headache, muscle aches and vomiting.  Any of these may appear two to six days after a flea bite.

Right now, we're all hoping it is soon brought under control - especially when one beholds many young kids out in front of their homes chasing small "bunny rabbits" across their lawns. (Our area is now dense with rabbits and one observes 10 -12 scampering around any given morning). 

Hopefully, parents will instruct them that it is very unwise to try to catch or touch those cute little bunnies - whose fleas maybe are not so cute!

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