In the mid-1300s, the bubonic plague struck Europe. It was dubbed the “Black Death” because it wiped out 60 percent of Florence, Italy’s population in just a few months, while leaving black spots on the skin as evidence. Unfortunately, the Italians lacked the proper medical care, sanitation, and prevention methods to contain and starve the disease into extinction. Consequently, it struck again in the early 1900s. In modern times, technology, research, and medicine are more developed, and tests and proper knowledge that prevent contamination and infection readily exist. Illnesses such as the plague still greatly concern many, particularly because pathogens have a shrewd ability to evolve into a state of immunity. In fact, there was another outbreak last month. From those cases, scientists are beginning to see that the plague proliferates everywhere.
Symptoms of the plague include chills, weakness, nausea, high fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and even severe confusion, as well as swollen lymph nodes in the groin, armpit, or neck. It may seem like a case of normal influenza at first, but the later-stage symptoms prove otherwise, so it is best to treat any pesky sicknesses while they are still budding.
Even then, like all illnesses, the plague would not always show its tell-tale signs, like in the case of septicemic plague. This rare influenza mutation recently took the life of a 16-year old boy in Larimer County, Colorado after he was misdiagnosed. Like many other zoonotic diseases, a general strand infection is mainly spread through infected fleas and ticks, who in turn bite small woodsy animals, nearby canines, felines, and humans.
Direct human contact can also be an issue, especially with travelers. A few months ago, a New York subway swab was taken to test for the presence of the virus. Initially, it was reported that it came come back positive and highly contagious, but recently, as the virus panic has grown, the results were corrected with the idea in mind that everything, and everyone, carries a mind-boggling number of microorganisms, including deadly ones, ones that hail from who knows where, and ones that virologists never knew existed. In all actuality, even though that may seem concerning, it should be quite the opposite, because it is the natural state of every mass to have an incomprehensible number of microorganisms covering it, surrounding it, and living inside of it. Since the bacterium and viruses are so diverse and abundant, it is clear that the plague proliferates everywhere, too.
This year, Colorado has had four cases of the plague, a number creeping up on last years’ seven incidents, and there has been some scare of it spreading, especially in the Yosemite National Park region. The California nature reserve is a heavily wooded area housing the same species suspected in the media of carrying the latest disease threat. Its rangers have reported that ten tourists have contracted hantavirus from the park’s deer mice. Additionally, a child is still recovering from this disease that once was a guaranteed death sentence.
Campers in the woods are advised to not trek with their legs exposed or unsprayed with DEET insect repellant, and to avoid contact at all costs with wild rodents, whether alive, dead, or hungry, and their burrows. Likewise, pets should have minimal exposure to possible carriers, rodent, insect, and mammilian, as well as optimal protection and repellant against them. Public transportation will always inevitably have a lot of different microorganisms bustling around with the heavy traffic and travel, but that does not necessarily guarantee an outbreak.
With problems occurring so infrequently and biological knowledge being so widespread, there seems to be little cause for alarm regarding illnesses like the plague. Nevertheless, it is better to be safe than sorry, and anyone who despises being sick should take thorough precautions against them. While preparation and prevention is important, such measures can never be 100 percent effective because the plague proliferates everywhere, just like every other pathogen.
By Jarick Roaderick
The Fresno Bee – Child Infected With Plague After Camping In Stanislaus Forest, Yosemite
The Denver Channel – Pueblo County Resident Dies of Plague; 2nd Plague Death in Colorado In 2015
The Washington Post – There Might Not Actually Be Bubonic Plague Bacteria On the New York Subway, Researchers Admit
Charisma News – A Sign of the Times? Bubonic Plague Strikes US
HistoryToday – The Black Death: The Greatest Catastrophe Ever
Image Courtesy of John W. Iwanski’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License