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HEALTH ALERT: Chez Corlyss May Be Plague Grounds

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 9:42 am
by Ralph
Campground closed after bubonic plague strikes rodents

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) -- A campground at Natural Bridges National Monument has been closed because of bubonic plague detected among field mice and chipmunks.

Plague also has been found this spring in rodent populations at Mesa Verde National Park and Colorado National Monument.

National Park Service officials said there never has been a reported human case of bubonic plague originating from the parks or national monuments.

"We come down on the conservative side when it comes to closing campgrounds," said Joe Winkelmaier of the U.S. Public Health Service. "We just like to be sure when it comes to plague."

Several weeks ago, park rangers noticed a large number of dead field mice at Natural Bridges, about 40 miles west of Blanding. Chief Ranger Ralph Jones showed that tests indicated they died from the plague.

Rangers plan to insecticides to kill fleas in the campground area. Humans usually contract bubonic plague after being bitten by fleas that have bitten infected rodents. The campground could be reopened as soon as next week.

Plague occurs throughout the West, but is concentrated in the Four Corners area of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. An average of 18 cases involving humans are reported each year in the United States, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About one in seven victims die.

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 10:00 am
by jbuck919
There is a vaccine, in case anyone is interested. Of course, I would not suggest a general vaccination of the population, which would probably kill more people from reactions than the plague, but my military father had to get it.

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 11:11 am
by John Bleau
I knew for quite a while that squirrels in the west often carried bubonic plague, so the article is no surprise.

Reading a little into the article:

If one person in seven dies, then we have about 2½ persons dying out of the annual 18 stricken. This is a very small sample and for a larger population, they could prove very different. Bubonic plague, assuming it is the same disease as swept the eastern world in mediaeval times, is an eastern disease, against which our native peoples may still be poorly adapted. The Four Corners area is populated with Amerindians, so the figures might not be applicable to the general population. You're right, jbuck, a vaccine is inadvisable for the general population, though it might be a useful (though I'm not quite sold on vaccines) prophylactic for people from the Four Corners.

Ralph, I'll call later this week: I'm settling in right now.

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 11:27 am
by Teresa B
We are not so likely to have a pandemic of bubonic plague, because it is caused by a bacterium, Yersinia pestis. It is sensitive to a number of antibiotics, so rapid treatment would prevent epidemic mortality rates.

Also, in the U.S., only selected populations who are exposed to rodent flea bites would be at risk. (Pneumonic spread is more rare, but could possibly be a factor in human-human spread.) Vaccine in at-risk people might be reasonable if plague were shown to be rampant in these rodents.

And, prophylactic antibiotic treatment in exposed or at-risk individuals would help prevent epidemic.

Now viral diseases like Smallpox, Influenza and the like--different story.
Teresa

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 11:43 am
by Ralph
Actually I've read every book on plague and similar diseases I can get my hands on for decades. I also subscribe to PRO MED and get daily reports on these pathogens. I'm not worried about a new American pandemic - I do want to caution people that plague-bearing rodents tend to harbor in dwellings characterized by clutter, excessive piles of right-wing publications and unfiled and scattered Early Music CDs.

Yersinia pestis used to be called Pasteurella pestis but true credit eventually goes to the deserving usually when they're dead. :)

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 5:20 pm
by RebLem
The infected area is about a 3 hour drive from me. :o

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 6:27 pm
by Ralph
RebLem wrote:The infected area is about a 3 hour drive from me. :o
*****

You're in no danger. But Corlyss's ranch...I don't know.

Posted: Tue May 16, 2006 7:37 pm
by Corlyss_D
Ralph wrote:Actually I've read every book on plague and similar diseases I can get my hands on for decades. I also subscribe to PRO MED and get daily reports on these pathogens. I'm not worried about a new American pandemic - I do want to caution people that plague-bearing rodents tend to harbor in dwellings characterized by clutter, excessive piles of right-wing publications and unfiled and scattered Early Music CDs.
I'm more likely to harbor hanta virus out here. How about you, Reb?