The Plague is Back

It appears that the plague is making a comeback. You read that correctly. The same illness that ravaged much of the world in the Middle Ages and that became known as the Black Death has recently shown up in the American West.

Since the beginning of this year, three people in New Mexico have caught the plague, though none have died. Two had the bubonic form of the disease, which causes painful lumps (called “buboes”) to develop in the lymph nodes. One of the patients caught the more virulent pneumonic form of the plague, which hits the lungs and is highly deadly. All three of the patients have been treated and released, though the pneumonic plague victim suffered some lasting organ damage. Although this is a far cry from the millions of people affected by historic outbreaks of the disease, it is still unsettling.

media.npr.org

The bacteria that causes the disease, Yersinia pestis, has not changed much since it first struck human populations hundreds of years ago. Traces of the bacteria extracted from the teeth of human remains have even helped researchers identify past plague victims buried in large burial pits. New Mexico typically experiences a few cases a year, though the number of cases will likely be higher this year. But there are many more cases in Africa.

Fortunately for the American victims, good hygiene and the availability of antibiotics means that very few of them will die. In less developed areas, over half of those who catch the plague will die if they don’t receive treatment quickly.

Though the plague is carried by rodents, it is actually the types of trees found in New Mexico that make it the perfect environment for the disease. The state is home to many juniper and pinyon trees, which rodents love to live in. These rodents are almost always infested with fleas that carry Yersenia pestis.

Squirrels, particularly rock squirrels, and prairie dogs are a major source of these fleas. They enter people’s yards, leaving fleas as they go. These fleas then hitch a ride on family pets and end up biting humans, thus spreading the illness. The fleas have also been known to bite humans who are out hiking in the areas where their rodent hosts live.

Though the plague is scary, there’s no need to pack your bags and leave New Mexico. Just make sure that you keep the areas near your home free of woodpiles and junk, since rodents like to live in these places. Also, you should use flea control products on all pets and keep their food and water bowls inside, so that rodents aren’t attracted to them. If you like to hike, wear insect repellent and protective clothing. Finally, if you live in a plague-affected area, and you develop a sudden illness, see a doctor as quickly as you can.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • New Fossilized Tracks Show Early Humans As Giant Sloth Hunters

    It seems like 11,000 years ago the giant sloth was being hunted by early humans, or at least they were definitely being stalked. Whichever route or path the giant sloth decided to take well a large group of humans would be in pursuit, even stepping directly onto their giant paw prints. The giant sloth was...

    Read More
  • Ice That Is As Hot As The Sun

    Superionic ice, it is both solid and a liquid and is over sixty times denser than usual water ice. In fact, it forms only when hit by temperatures as high as on the Sun’s surface. And for the first time ever, scientists have been able to recreate it in a lab. ...

    Read More
  • 5000 Years Ago We Practiced Brain Surgery On Cows

    A cow skull has been discovered with a punctured hole in it from a crude human tool. This is most likely the first known attempt of skull surgery, and it is 5,000 years old. There is no way to tell if the cow was alive or dead during the procedure, but if the skull shows...

    Read More
  • The Algae Expert Who Helped Win World War II

    One would have thought that the Ministry Of Defense would have known the difference between a cryptogamist and a cryptogramist. Back in World War II, they showed us that they definitely did not, which is why they accidentally recruited scientist Geoffrey Tandy to work at Bletchley Park for the Code Breakers. ...

    Read More
  • Saving A Whole Village With Rainbow Art

    Everyone loves a rainbow, the beautiful colors and different hues always make you smile. And that is what one Taiwanese pensioner thought when he made a desperate attempt to save his village. Armed with only a paintbrush, 93-year old Huang Yung-Fu turned his town into a vibrant rainbow and in the process saved it from...

    Read More
  • Evidence Of A Destroyed Planet Found

    Billions of years ago it seems our solar system actually had another planet spinning around in it. This long destroyed planet would have existed only during the very start of our solar systems creation. In 2008, an asteroid exploded into the Sudan desert on October 7th and with it came...

    Read More
  • Huge Poop Train Stuck Outside Small Alabama Town

    In a strange situation that is just asking to be explained, sources have revealed a huge train filled with human excrement is stranded outside a small town in Alabama. Apparently, the poop train is wafting smelly fumes for miles and locals are beginning to wonder whenever this nightmare may end. ...

    Read More