This recent headline is concerning on the face of it, but how serious really is the potential for the spread of the plague? Actually the plague has been around practically forever with cases usually occurring between late Spring and early Fall. The states of Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico are the only three that produce cases due to flea bites. The Colorado teen Taylor Thomas Gaes likely contracted the plague from a flea bite.
There are three primary types of plague that have appeared in the USA.
- (1) Bubonic plague is an infection of the lymph nodes
- (2) Pneumonic plague is an infection of the lungs
- (3) Septicemic plague is an infection of the blood
All three of these forms of the plague are caused by the same bacterium — Yersinia pestis. This bacteria is also responsible for plague infections in animals, which are often the primary means of dissemination of the disease. Plague can have a quite detrimental effect on nonhuman mammals in particular.
“In the United States, animals such as the black-tailed prairie dog and the endangered black-footed ferret are under threat from the disease.”