Bubonic Plague in Michigan


Scanning electron micrograph depicting a mass of Yersinia pestis bacteria (the cause of bubonic plague) in the foregut of the flea vector.

Photo credit: NIAID/Flickr

The U.S. has been an active center of the bubonic plague this year. Another person has contracted the deadly disease, taking the total number of cases reported in 2015 to 14.

The patient, a resident of Michigan, is said to have contracted the deadly disease during his visit to Colorado. However, the state health department officials urged public not to panic as the person, a resident of Marquette County, is responding well to the treatment and is recovering fast, Reuters reported.

“This is not something that occurs (in) Michigan. … This is a person who contracted this while they were away, and the individual is making a recovery and is not a public health (threat),”Jennifer Smith from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services told USA Today.

The country has reported 14 cases, including three deaths in 2015.  Utah reported one death in August, while Colorado lost two of its citizens to the disease.

Plague: Symptoms and Treatment

Plague is caused by a bacterium named Yersinia pestis and is spread by rodent fleas. Rats are mainly held responsible for transmitting the disease to humans; however, humans can also get infected through the bite of an infected flea. However, in some cases, the bacteria manages to reach the lungs and leads to the development of pneumonic plague. This type of plague can be spread through exposure to an infected droplet from a patient.

Bubonic plague is one of the most common types of plagues found in U.S. Symptoms include fever, headache, weakness, chills, and swollen lymph nodes.

The U.S., according to a CDC report, was completely free from the disease until 1900, when some “rat-infested steamships” from the disease-affected Asia reached its ports. The country has recorded a total of 1,600 cases of plague from 1900 to 2012 and at least seven cases every year since then.

A person affected with plague, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), exhibits symptoms only after three to seven days after the beginning of the infection. Antibiotics, when given during the initial stages, can successfully cure the disease. However, if left untreated, the condition can claim lives in 30 to 60 percent of the cases.

In 2013, the disease killed 126 out of the 783 patients across the world.

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