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US Concerns Over Plague Rise After 3 More Cases Confirmed This Summer

© Flickr / Kat MasbackThis flea is a common ectoparasite of the rock squirrel, Citellus variegatus, and in the western United States, is an important vector for the bacterium Yersinia pestis, the pathogen responsible for causing plague.
This flea is a common ectoparasite of the rock squirrel, Citellus variegatus, and in the western United States, is an important vector for the bacterium Yersinia pestis, the pathogen responsible for causing plague. - Sputnik International
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A Los Angeles girl is being treated for plague, which experts believe she may have contracted during a family camping trip to Yosemite National Park in California. The case becomes the third confirmed in the US this summer.

There have already been two deaths from plague in Colorado over the past two months, one of victims being a 16-year-old boy. Both victims allegedly suffered a rare septicemic form of the disease that doesn't provoke the typical plague symptoms, like lymph node swelling, but feels more like flu and therefore can't be easily identified. Diagnosing plague quickly is essential, for even with modern medicine plague may be deadly if treatment comes too late.

Yersinia pestis,the plague bacteria, was found in the New York Subway system. - Sputnik International
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Two other Coloradans were diagnosed earlier this year, but were treated and recovered.

The latest is the first case of plague to be diagnosed in California since 2006, the state's Department of Public Health stated in a press release. None of the infected child's family members has reported any related symptoms.

Just as in the Middle Ages, when plague wiped out millions in Europe and Asia, the disease is carried by wild rodents like squirrels and chipmunks and their fleas. In order to prevent additional spread, authorities have posted warning signs at Yosemite campgrounds. Their instructions for national park visitors are to use insect repellent, to cover bare skin and to stay away from wild animals. 

"Although this is a rare disease, people should protect themselves from infection by avoiding any contact with wild rodents," said state health officer Dr. Karen Smith.

Plague is considered a rare disease in the US with only nine total fatal cases since 1970.

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