Michigan Gets First-Ever Case of Bubonic Plague

Patient probably got it on a trip to Colorado
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 15, 2015 7:52 AM CDT
Michigan Gets First-Ever Case of Bubonic Plague
Prairie dogs in southern Utah. A state resident who died of the plague this year is thought to have picked it up from prairie dogs.   (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Michigan doctors have an unwanted first on their hands: a patient with bubonic plague. It sounds a lot worse than it is, however. The unidentified patient is recovering and has a form of the plague that isn't contagious, reports MLive. And Michigan residents will be happy to learn that the person is believed to have picked up the disease not at home but on a recent trip to Colorado, probably from the fleas of an infected animal. This is actually the 14th plague case in the US this year, well above the national average of three, notes the CDC. Four of them have been fatal, and the reason for this year's uptick isn't clear.

"Theoretically, the illness can move to bloodstream or to a lung infection, but this (Michigan) individual had localized infection, so there’s no concern about transmission," the medical director of the Marquette County Health Department tells the Detroit Free Press. Despite its devastation in the Middle Ages, the plague isn't the dreaded killer it used to be, explains CNN. Antibiotics and antimicrobials can generally conquer it, especially when detected early. (Rats have taken the blame for the Black Death centuries ago, but it turns out that another rodent may be the culprit.)

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