An article about bubonic plague appeared on several sites recently.
Plague a growing but overlooked threat: study
By Michael Kahn
Tue Jan 15, 10:45 AM ET
LONDON (Reuters) – Plague, the disease that devastated medieval Europe, is re-emerging worldwide and poses a growing but overlooked threat, researchers warned on Tuesday.
While it has only killed some 100 to 200 people annually over the past 20 years, plague has appeared in new countries in recent decades and is now shifting into Africa, Michael Begon, an ecologist at the University of Liverpool and colleagues said.
A bacterium known as Yersinia pestis causes bubonic plague, known in medieval times as the Black Death when it was spread by infected fleas, and the more dangerous pneumonic plague, spread from one person to another through coughing or sneezing.
“Although the number of human cases of plague is relatively low, it would be a mistake to overlook its threat to humanity, because of the disease’s inherent communicability, rapid spread, rapid clinical course, and high mortality if left untreated,” they wrote in the journal Public Library of Science journal PloS Medicine. (Emphasis added)
The article goes on to say that each year, 1,000 – 3,000 people are infected with plague worldwide. The US has 10 – 20 cases per year.
I admit that the numbers are not of pandemic proportions. And, thanks to antibiotics and improved sanitation, mass death on the scale that occurred in medieval times is not likely. But the article makes an important point: bubonic plague is spread by fleas.
The fleas that spread plague most often infest rats, but they can spread to other animals. In fact, cats are susceptible to plague, and are known to contract the disease periodically in California.
Plague is just one of many human and animal diseases that fleas spread. And it is just one of many reasons why I hate fleas. So, I beg of you: use a good flea preventative.