Idaho boy diagnosed with plague

Olha Schedrina  The Natural History Museum   Flea under a microscope

A boy in the U.S. state of Idaho is recovering after contracting plague - the first human case in the state in more than two decades, health officials say.

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

"Plague is spread to humans through a bite from an infected flea".

Ken Gage, a researcher focused on vector-borne disease at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told NPR in 2014 that there are a number of rodents in the American West that are susceptible to plague. Infected fleas spread the infection to animals, commonly mice, squirrels, prairie dogs and even cats and dogs.

In the USA, people can contract the plague when disposing of squirrels or mice that died from the infection or traveled to an area where infected animals live.

This plague case, like others that appear rarely but with some regularity, is the same disease that was responsible for the medieval "Black Death".

Since 2000, the CDC has received reports of one to 17 cases of the plague per year.

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According to the most recent data, there were no deaths from plague in 2016, but four in 2015.

A state health official told the Idaho Statesman newspaper that the public is advised to "wear insect repellant, long trousers and socks when visiting plague affected areas". Now in the US, a plague vaccine is no longer available.

According to the CDC, symptoms can include fever, headache, chills, extreme weakness and, depending on the type of plague, skin discoloration, swollen and painful lymph nodes, or pneumonia.

Pneumonic plague, which is based in the lungs, "is the most virulent form of plague" and "can be fatal" when not diagnosed and treated early on, according to the WHO.

The plague is a very serious illness, but is treatable with antibiotics, usually taken for seven to 14 days. This is important - when an animal dies from the plague, fleas leave the body and look for another host, which could be your pet, especially if it rolls in a carcass or eats it.

"People can decrease their risk by treating their pets for fleas and avoiding contact with wildlife", CDHD epidemiologist Sarah Correll said in a statement. It can appear on its own or develop from bubonic plague.

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