COMBATING INFECTION: Preparing for a plague outbreak

December 2005 
Volume 35  Number 12
Pages 14 - 14
  PDF Version Available!


RESPONSIBLE FOR millions of deaths during the Middle Ages, plague ( Yersinia pestis ) no longer causes widespread epidemics due to improvements in sanitation, medical care, and antibiotic therapy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 10 to 15 Americans are infected with plague every year. Most cases are diagnosed in western and southwestern regions.

The plague bacterium can infect many outdoor mammals. It's commonly transmitted from the host animal (usually rodents) to humans via fleas. It can also be transmitted from an infected person or animal through airborne respiratory droplets and direct contact with infected tissue.

In the United States, humans may encounter infected mammals while hunting, trapping, or camping. Outbreaks are also associated with crowded living conditions and poor sanitation. If treated promptly with antibiotics, plague is rarely fatal. In the United States, about 1 in 7 people (14%) dies, ...

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