Health Care

Elmore County child recovering from plague

Elmore County child recovering from plague”

According to the state's health department, it is unknown whether the child was exposed to the plague in Idaho, or if the illness was picked up during a recent trip to Oregon.

An unidentified child in Idaho is recovering after receiving treatment for the plague.

Christine Myron, spokesperson for the Central District Health Department, said he is now recovering at home after a course of antibiotics at a local hospital.

One of the more significant plague reservoirs is the western United States, which is why many parks in this region post signs warning visitors to keep their distance from wild rodents and to wear protective clothing and/or insect repellent.

The health department reminds southern Idaho recreationists that plague is risky to people and pets and for people to be aware of what to look for when in the Idaho outdoors.

Humans usually get the disease after being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the plague bacterium. People can reduce the chance of encountering plague by avoiding contact with wild rodents, their fleas and rodent carcasses.

Cases of plague in Idaho were diagnosed in squirrels as recently as 2016, though none have been found in southern Ada County or Elmore County this year. At the time, they did not realize the plague was carried by the fleas who lived on rats. It can also be transmitted to humans by direct contact with infected animals or their fleas. That list includes rats, voles, and ground squirrels, all of which can be found in Idaho. No one should feed rodents in parks and picnic or campground areas, and people should never handle sick or dead rodents.

See your doctor if you have any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever after being in a plague-endemic area. Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian, especially if they may have had contact with sick or dead rodents.

Store hay, wood and compost piles as far as possible away from your home. In most cases, there is a painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck areas. Pneumonic plague includes shortness of breath, chest pain, cough and sometimes bloody mucous.

Since 1940, only five human cases of plague have been reported in Idaho.

Much less common is the pneumonic plague, which can occur when a bubonic or septicemic plague is not treated and a person's lungs become infected. With prompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment, fatal infections in people and pets can be limited.

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