Officials confirm Idaho’s first human plague case since 1992

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There are a few plague cases every year in the USA, mostly in the rural west and especially the south-west.

Idaho's Central District Health Department reported on Tuesday that a child in Elmore County was recovering from the bubonic plague. Human-to-human transmission is extremely rare.

The child, whose age and gender was not released, received antibiotic treatment and is now recovering.

Local health officials suspect that the boy contracted the disease when he was playing outside on a family trip to OR, but they don't know for sure.

It is the first human case in the state since the early 1990s, and is believed to be the only one reported this year. Since 1990, there have been eight confirmed cases in OR and two in Idaho.

One of the oldest identifiable diseases known to man, the plague is still widely distributed in the warm parts of the world.

Plague has been largely eradicated in North America, but is still found naturally in the western U.S. Patients typically develop fever, headache, chills, weakness and painful swelling in the lymph nodes. Left untreated, people can still die from the plague.

Having evolved to live inside rodents, Yersinia pestis is primarily transmitted to new hosts - including us humans - via flea bites.

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Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian, especially if they may have had contact with sick or dead rodents in the desert areas south and east of Boise.

Jeff Doerr, an epidemiologist at Southeastern Idaho Public Health, says that while the disease is still very serious, it doesn't pose the threat it once did, but it is still something to avoid.

Plague is a bigger problem in places that have a harder time shutting down outbreaks due to a lack of infrastructure, humanitarian crises, or ongoing conflicts, according to the World Health Organization.

Now, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague". Common rodents that can become infected include ground squirrels, rats, voles and mice. It can be spread by contact with an infected animal or through fleas.

- Wear gloves if you are handling or skinning potentially infected animals to prevent contact between your skin and the plague bacteria.

It has resulted in the deaths of 75 to 200 million people in Europe and Asia centuries ago.

The plague killed some 60 percent of Europeans during the 1300's, but it is no longer as deadly, with a mortality rate of around 10%.