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Bubonic plague spreads to Michigan

The bubonic plague appears to be slowly spreading with an abnormally high number of cases reported so far this year. This case marks Michigan's first recorded case.

Yersinia pestis plague
"Yersinia pestis". Licensed under Public Domain via Commons -

A Michigan resident who had recently visited Colorado has been infected with the bubonic plague. This marks the first ever confirmed case of the plague in Michigan, but health officials are confident that the disease will not spread any further.

The resident, an adult female citizen from Marquette County in Michigan’s upper peninsula, is reported to be recovering. The woman is reportedly not in the hospital and as of right now health officials expect her to make a full recovery.

Bubonic plague infections appear to be on the rise in the United States, especially out west. Numerous cases have been reported in California, Colorado, and other western states. While cases are on the uptick, the overall numbers are still quite small. Only 14 cases have been reported in the United States so far this year. Still, this marks a dramatic increase from the average 3 cases reported per year.

Bubonic plague was once one of the most widespread and deadliest diseases in the world. The disease wiped out massive portions of ancient and medieval civilizations before public health precautions and natural immunity began to slow its spread.

It is estimated that as much as 60 percent of Europe’s population was wiped out during the medieval ages by the plague. According to the World Health Organization between 30 to 60 percent of plague victims will succumb to the disease if left untreated.

The plague comes in three forms, depending on what is infected, bubonic, septicaemic and pneumonic. Bubonic plague, the most common, is identified by swollen lymph nodes. Since the 1990’s most cases of the plague have been reported in Africa. In 2013 there were 783 known cases with 126 deaths, though actual numbers could be higher due to under reporting in poor, rural areas.

The disease is spread by the fleas found on rodents. Traditionally, rats are believed to have been the most common rodents to spread the plague, but other animals can spread it as well. If a human is bitten by one of the fleas, he or she can become infected.

The disease is bacterial in nature. Once infected, a person will then become sick within two to six days of exposure. Common symptoms include fever, nausea, and abdominal pain. If the bacteria reaches a person’s lungs, they can develop the pneumonic plague, which can then be spread through the air by infected droplets originating from the lungs.