Plague outbreak in Colorado? Girl, 10, first human to die from disease in the state since 2015

This was the 21st human case of plague in Colorado since 2005

                            Plague outbreak in Colorado? Girl, 10, first human to die from disease in the state since 2015
Representational photo (DBenitostock/Getty Images)

Fears of a plague outbreak have shrouded Colorado after a young girl died from the deadly disease amidst more confirmed cases within the state. Lab tests were able to confirm that the La Plata County girl, who was reportedly in the fourth grade, died from plague, which spreads through flea bites. Other cases of the disease, although not clear how aggravated, were detected in the San Miguel, El Paso, Boulder, Huerfano, and Adams counties, in Colorado, a health official told local media outlets.

News of the little girl's death comes just a year after a squirrel tested positive for the bubonic plague in the town of Morrison in Colorado's Jefferson County. Colorado has reported a number of shocking deaths recently, including that of 13-year-old Dylan Redwine, killed by his father after finding 'compromising' photos of the dad. Another Colorado 'hero' who shot a gunman on lose was killed by cops for holding the suspect's AR-15 rifle.


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The girl is reportedly the first person to die from the disease in Colorado since 2015. The case is also the 21st human case in the state since 2005, reports the Denver Post. Humans are said to catch the disease through direct flea bites. It can also get transmitted from handling infected animals, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Colorado girl caught the virus through fleas from a pack of prairie dogs, said Jennifer House, Epidemiologist and Public Health Veterinarian for Colorado's Health Department said on Monday, July 19.

While the girl's identity hasn't been shared, it has been reported that she was a 10-year-old student at Sunnyside Elementary School in Durango. "She was raising hogs in 4-H this year and had just finished playing softball. She had a most beautiful smile and was so very sweet!" a letter by a county youth official stated. Fleas testing positive for plague during summer months is not that uncommon, and while prairie dogs are the most susceptible to the disease, rodents like squirrels, wood rats, and even chipmunks could infect people.

A bubonic plague smear, prepared from a lymph removed from an adenopathic lymph node, or bubo, of a plague patient, demonstrates the presence of the Yersinia pestis bacteria that causes the plague in this undated photo (Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images)


"We can honestly see plague in most locations. The majority of our positive animals come more from rural areas, but we have seen plague approaching the metro area," House added in her statement, continuing: "While it’s rare for people to contract plague, we want to make sure everyone knows the symptoms. The disease is treatable if caught early." 

The plague is a naturally occurring bacteria that gets transmitted to humans through flea bites. With the potential to spread rapidly and very quickly, the plague can only be treated by antibiotics, provided it's detected early.

Symptoms of the disease can include headache, sudden fever, weakness, chills, and also painful lymph nodes, said the Colorado health official who wrote the letter about the deceased 10-year-old. According to the CDC, one to 17 cases of the plague are reported on an average annually in humans across the country. Most of these cases are said to occur in northern New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, and southern Colorado.

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