By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
A second Arizona county in two weeks has confirmed the finding of fleas that have tested positive for bubonic plague. The latest findings come from near the town of Taylor.
The announcement by Navajo County Public Health officials on Friday, August 11, comes one week after Coconino County officials found prairie dogs in the area to be carrying fleas with the plague germ.
“Navajo County Health Department is urging the public to take precautions to reduce their risk of exposure to this serious disease, which can be present in fleas, rodents, rabbits and predators that feed upon these animals,” the Navajo County Health Department statement said, according to an ABCNews report.
Bubonic plague, also known as the “Black Death,” is the same disease that wiped out an estimated 60 percent of Europe’s population in the 1660s. “The plague started in the East, possibly China, and quickly spread through Europe. Whole communities were wiped out and corpses littered the streets as there was no one left to bury them,” says the British website, History of England.
Plague Can Be Transmitted by the Bite of an Infected Flea or Animal
Navajo County officials said the disease can be transmitted to humans and other animals by the bite of an infected flea or by direct contact with an infected animal. County officials advised anyone in the area of the reported plague-carrying fleas to keep their pets from roaming loose and avoid rodent burrows. They have also instructed people to watch for sudden deaths of groups of prairie dogs or rodents, which could also be an indicator of bubonic plague.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says outbreaks of the plague occasionally occur in southwestern U.S. states like Arizona during cooler summers that follow wet winters. “Symptoms of plague include sudden onset of fever, headache, chills, weakness and one or more swollen, tender and painful lymph nodes. If untreated, the bacteria can spread to other parts of the body,” the CDC said.
The Plague Is a Minor Threat Now Due to Better Hygiene and Antibiotics
Scientists and public health officials say the plague is a minor threat to most Americans due to modern amenities and medical advances, according to a 2014 article by AZCentral. “Thanks to two modern factors — increased hygiene and the introduction of antibiotics — there’s little chance of an outbreak reaching that magnitude today,” Dave Wagner, associate director of the Center for Microbial Genetics and Genomics at Northern Arizona University, told AZCentral.