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Bubonic plague afflicts a girl in Colorado
Practically unheard of in modern times, the bacterial infection once known as the "Black Death" that decimated the European population in the 1300s could have ended the life of a Colorado girl, had it not been for the quick thinking of emergency department physicians. According to the Associated Press (AP), 7-year-old Sierra Jane Downing is the first confirmed case of bubonic plague in the Centennial State since 2006.
"If she had stayed home, she could've easily died within 24 to 48 hours from the shock of infection," said Jennifer Snow, pediatrician at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, quoted by the news source.
Snow also told AP that Jane was suffering from a high heart rate, low blood pressure and a painfully swollen lymph node in her groin upon her arrival at the hospital. Her parents thought she had the flu before a seizure tipped them off that their daughter required emergency medicine. Her mother suspects that Sierra caught the plague from a dead squirrel she found at a campsite.
Having spoken to federal health officials, AP states that two definite and one probable instance of bubonic plague have occurred in 2012 in New Mexico and Oregon.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that bubonic plague is spread through bites by plague-stricken rodent fleas, although individuals can also catch it by touching infected animals or inhaling fumes from sick animals' droppings. Contact with an infected person is considered to be an ineffective way of transmission, and between 1,000 and 2,500 individuals across the globe are infected each year. Antibiotics, which were unavailable during the 14th century, are generally considered to be an effective treatment.
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