Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Story of the Day-Bubonic plague

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Common Name: Bubonic Plague

Scientific Name: Yersinia pestis

Classification: Bacteria, micro-organism

Phylum or Division: Proteobacteria
Class: Gammaproteobacteria
Order: Enterobacteriales
Family: Enterobacteriaceae
Genus: Yersinia

Current Distribution: The World Health Organization reports approximately one to three thousand cases of plague throughout the planet annually. In 2003, 2,118 cases were reported nine countries throughout the world. Of the over 2,000 cases and 182 fatalities 98% were from Africa. In Zambia, 267 cases of plague were reported in 1997 with 26 resulting in death. The Democratic Republic of Congo has reported over 1,000 cases of plague each year since 2001. Due to the current political conflict within the DRC, surveillance, control and treatment with simple antibiotics has suspended. Algeria had 11 confirmed cases of bubonic plague in 2003.

The United States averages about 16-18 cases of plague per year. Only about one in seven died from the infection.

Site and Date of Introduction: The introduction of the flea carrying parasite into shipping ports is responsible for several pandemics throughout the world. A few significant pandemics are listed below:

The Black Plague occurred throughout Asia and the Middle East during the 14th Century. This pandemic represents the largest death toll of any known disease to date. With over 34 million fatalities, Europe reduced its population by one third.

In the late 17th Century (1665-66), London experienced The Great Plague. Spread of the plague originated from Dutch trading ships carrying bales of cotton with concentrated flea populations. Estimated losses ranged from 75 to 100 thousand individuals. With a decline in London’s population by one fifth, up to 7,000 victims were succumbing each week in the later stages of the outbreak.
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Bubonic plague is the most common type. It is caught when an infected flea bites a person. The vicitim then develops swollen and tender lymph glands, fever, headache, chills, and weakness. The disease does not spread between people.

The bubonic plague is the best-known variant of the deadly infectious disease caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis. The epidemiological use of the term plague is currently applied to bacterial infections that cause buboes, although historically the medical use of the term plague has been applied to pandemic infections in general

Questions and Answers
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Bubonic Plague Killing Squirrels In Denver
Denver, CO (AHN) - Residents of Denver, Colorado are being warned that a spate of squirrel deaths is being caused by "Black Death" the common name for Bubonic Plague, which killed millions of people in the 14th Century. So far, no humans have been infected. However, the plague is inside one of the city's most popular parks, the site of youth soccer games and a place people go to walk their dogs and picnic.

Plague bacteria are carried by fleas that get on squirrels, rodents, pets and people and spread the disease by biting. This bout has killed 13 squirrels found in or near City Park, and two squirrels and a rabbit found in Denver suburbs.

Usually the plague is confined to the foothills or remote areas of Colorado and it kills a few dozen rodents and pets every year.

Residents are being instructed to take some common sense measures to avoid squirrels and don't feed them, keep pets away from squirrels and treat pets for fleas.

Some 58 people in Colorado have contracted plague since 1957, with nine of them dying. The last human death there was in 2004. One human case of Bubonic Plague has been reported this year, it was in New Mexico and the victim is recovering.
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Bubonic Plague Kills A Monkey At Denver Zoo
The death of a monkey at the Denver Zoo from bubonic plague has prompted officials to change the habitats of some zoo animals and renew efforts to keep visitors from feeding the urban wildlife here.
The animal, an 8-year-old female hooded capuchin monkey named Spanky, was the first zoo animal to be infected with the plague since an outbreak was detected last month in squirrels and a rabbit in City Park, just outside the zoo.

Bubonic plague, which came to be called the Black Death as it killed millions of people throughout Europe in the 14th century, is carried by fleas that infect rodents. Today, it is found mainly in rural areas of the West. While it can be deadly in humans and some animals, bubonic plague is treatable.

The zoo’s senior veterinarian, Dr. Dave Kenny, said that the capuchin monkeys were recently moved to their summer habitat, an island with tall trees that squirrels can climb. Dr. Kenny said he thought that Spanky “found a nest of ground squirrels” that carried the plague.

“Because it was pretty acute,” he said, “it makes the most sense that she ingested an infected squirrel.”

Spanky appeared lethargic last Tuesday and was found dead last Wednesday morning. The cause was confirmed Friday.

While none of the 17 other capuchin monkeys at the zoo have shown signs of illness, all are being treated with antibiotics and have been moved back to cages where visitors can still see them swinging around.

“It’s not particularly shocking,” said Steve Feldman, a spokesman for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a nonprofit zoo accreditation group in Silver Spring, Maryland. “And it shouldn’t be alarming to the public, either. Animals in zoos are kept appropriately separated from the visiting public and receive the highest level of veterinary care.”

There are 4,000 animals at the Denver Zoo, and Dr. Kenny said it was not known how susceptible many exotic animals were to the plague. To prevent any possible exposure, zoo officials decided Tuesday not to open a summer exhibit where visitors have been previously allowed to pet Nubian and pygmy goats. In addition, some animals will be fed indoors, rather than outside where leftover grains could attract squirrels.

After the plague was discovered, zoo officials put up large signboards with pictures of squirrels that read, “I know I am cute, but please don’t feed or touch me!” Although officials say that the chance of contamination from hungry squirrels to humans is “slim to none,” they want to discourage any interactions. Staff members will also patrol the zoo to “share information” about the plague and monitor squirrel activity.

“We see plague every year in rural and semirural areas,” said Dr. John Pape, an epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “It is unusual to see it in the center of an urban area, but it is not unprecedented.”

Dr. Pape said the infection did not come as a complete surprise because squirrels had “24/7 access” to the zoo and could get into the wild-animal enclosures.

On Tuesday, neither rain nor plague kept visitors from the zoo, and employees and volunteers said visitors seemed unconcerned about the health risk.

“I’ve been kind of expecting questions, but I didn’t get any yet,” said a zoo docent, Melissa DeCost, who was showing schoolchildren an anteater’s skull. “I would tell them not to feed the squirrels though.”

Glenda Reynolds, who was serving as a chaperone to a group of schoolchildren from Cheyenne, Wyoming, said there was little concern about the plague. “We already tell our kids not to touch or feed the animals here,” said Reynolds. “No kids asked about it.”

At the caged capuchin monkey exhibit, Ryan Picket, 9 was pointing and shouting, “These are the monkeys that died.” Ryan said he learned of the plague from watching the news on television. “I thought it was kind of sad, and I was kind of nervous to come to the zoo today.”

Ryan’s father, Matt Picket, was less dramatic. “I don’t think it’s really that big of a deal,” said Mr.Picket. “There are so few squirrels around, and we are telling the kids not to touch or feed them.”

The current spread of plague here could be wiped out with the dry heat of summer. “If it gets hot and dry,” Dr. Pape said, “the fleas won’t survive.”
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Use caution, sense to avoid plague in city
A relatively rare outbreak of the Bubonic plague is sweeping through City Park in Denver. People should avoid contact with rodents in the area.
In Colorado, we're accustomed to hearing about the Bubonic plague. Despite its scary name and grim history of killing millions, the disease largely has been confined to the foothills or far-flung parts of the state, killing a few dozen rodents and pets every year.

But this year's outbreak is sweeping through Denver's City Park, which on any warm weekend day is host to hundreds of youth soccer players, people walking dogs and picnickers.

The carriers this time are squirrels, and City Park is chock full of them. The take- home message for anyone who visits City Park, or any of Denver's many parks and adjacent neighborhoods, is to stay away from squirrels, dead or alive. And keep your pets away from them, too.

A dozen infected animals have been found in City Park, which is home to a large number of squirrels that tend to approach people without hesitation, hoping for a handout. There's never justification for feeding wildlife, but the plague is an especially good reason for avoiding it.

Workers at the Denver Zoo, adjacent to the park, are carefully looking for signs of the disease in their animals. In April, they had found four dead squirrels and a rabbit on zoo grounds. All tested positive for the plague. "At this point, we're just continuing to monitor," said Ana Bowie, zoo spokesperson.

Plague bacteria is spread by flea bites. The fleas catch it from feeding on infected rodents, such as prairie dogs, squirrels and mice. If their host dies, fleas will seek another warm body for a blood meal - that could be human or animal, both of which can catch the disease. Plague symptoms include swollen lymph glands, fever, chills, headache and extreme exhaustion. While the plague - also called Black Death - killed millions in the Middles Ages, it now is easily treated by antibiotics if caught in time.

Since 1957, there have been 58 reported cases of human plague in Colorado, with nine people ultimately dying. The last reported death was in 2004.

State health officials offer these admonitions as they attempt to contain the outbreak: Don't feed squirrels or other rodents. Don't let dogs or cats catch or eat squirrels. Keep pets treated for fleas. Report any sudden rodent or rabbit die-offs.

The last time there was an urban outbreak of the plague in Denver was 1968. Though a 6-year-old girl was sickened, no one died in that outbreak. With cautionary measures and a dose of common sense, we hope there will be a similarly good ending to this plague episode.
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Bubonic plague kills nine in Tanzania
Bubonic plague has killed nine people in northern Tanzania since February, a regional official said on Thursday.

The plague outbreak was first reported in one village in late February, but has since spread to six others and infected 72 people, Salash Toure, a medical official in Manyara region, near the Kenyan border, told AFP.

"The disease can easily be eradicated through increased health education on the use of pesticides and the destruction of vectors (rats or other rodents)," Toure said, adding that local authorities needed the pesticides to treat it.

"The government has already dispatched the required amount of pesticide," to the remote region, Raphael Kalinga, an official with the health ministry, told AFP.

The disease is endemic in some parts of northern Tanzania, he added.

Bubonic plague is a potentially fatal bacterial infection that causes swollen and tender lymph nodes, high fever, and chills.

It is carried by small rodents and fleas that live on them, but is not spread between humans.
Climate linked to plague increase
Climatic changes could lead to more outbreaks of bubonic plague among human populations, a study suggests.
Researchers found that the bacterium that caused the deadly disease became more widespread following warmer springs and wetter summers.

The disease occurs naturally in many parts of the world, and the team hopes its findings will help officials limit the risk of future outbreaks.

The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The bacterium Yersinia pestis is believed to have triggered the Black Death that killed more than 20 million people in the Middle Ages.

Rodent hosts

The international team of scientists, who focused their research on Kazakhstan, said the disease was widespread among rodent populations.

Writing in the paper, co-author Nils Stenseth from the University of Oslo said: "The desert regions of Central Asia are known to contain natural foci of plague where the great gerbil (Rhombomys opimus) is the primary host.

"Plague spread requires both a high abundance of hosts and a sufficient number of active fleas as vectors transmitting plague bacteria between hosts," the Norwegian scientist added.

Fleas became active when the temperature exceeded 10C (50F), so a warm, frost-free spring led to an early start to breeding.

The flea population continued to grow when the spring was followed by a wet, humid summer, the researcher wrote.

The combination of the two seasons' climatic conditions led to an increase in the number of the insects feeding off the great gerbils, resulting in a greater transmission of plague.

The study showed that just a 1C (1.8F) rise in the springtime temperature led to a 59% increase in the prevalence of the disease.

The greater prevalence of plague in the region's wildlife increased the risk of local people becoming infected.

Each year, up to 3,000 cases of humans contracting bubonic plague are reported in Asia, parts of Africa, the US and South America.

The researchers studied data on infected gerbils, flea counts and climate patterns from 1949 to 1995.

Professor Stenseth added that their findings also helped shed light on two of the world's worst plague outbreaks: the medieval Black Death and the Asian pandemic in the 19th Century, which claimed the lives of tens of millions of people.

"Analyses of tree-ring proxy climate data shows that conditions during the period of the Black Death (1280-1350) were both warmer and increasingly wet.

"The same was true during the origin of the Third Pandemic (1855-1870) when the climate was wetter and underwent an increasingly warm trend," he added.

The researchers hope their findings will help health officials put measures in place to limit the impact of future outbreaks.

But Professor Stenseth warned that recent changes to the region's climate suggested that warmer springs were becoming more frequent, increasing the risk of human infections.
Bubonic Plague Traced to Ancient Egypt
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The Black Death - Part 1 of 2

The Black Death - Part 2 of 2

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The Black Death: Bubonic Plague
In the early 1330s an outbreak of deadly bubonic plague occurred in China. The bubonic plague mainly affects rodents, but fleas can transmit the disease to people. Once people are infected, they infect others very rapidly. Plague causes fever and a painful swelling of the lymph glands called buboes, which is how it gets its name. The disease also causes spots on the skin that are red at first and then turn black.

Since China was one of the busiest of the world's trading nations, it was only a matter of time before the outbreak of plague in China spread to western Asia and Europe. In October of 1347, several Italian merchant ships returned from a trip to the Black Sea, one of the key links in trade with China. When the ships docked in Sicily, many of those on board were already dying of plague. Within days the disease spread to the city and the surrounding countryside. An eyewitness tells what happened:
"Realizing what a deadly disaster had come to them, the people quickly drove the Italians from their city. But the disease remained, and soon death was everywhere. Fathers abandoned their sick sons. Lawyers refused to come and make out wills for the dying. Friars and nuns were left to care for the sick, and monasteries and convents were soon deserted, as they were stricken, too. Bodies were left in empty houses, and there was no one to give them a Christian burial."

The disease struck and killed people with terrible speed. The Italian writer Boccaccio said its victims often

"ate lunch with their friends and dinner with their ancestors in paradise."
By the following August, the plague had spread as far north as England, where people called it "The Black Death" because of the black spots it produced on the skin. A terrible killer was loose across Europe, and Medieval medicine had nothing to combat it.

In winter the disease seemed to disappear, but only because fleas--which were now helping to carry it from person to person--are dormant then. Each spring, the plague attacked again, killing new victims. After five years 25 million people were dead--one-third of Europe's people.

Even when the worst was over, smaller outbreaks continued, not just for years, but for centuries. The survivors lived in constant fear of the plague's return, and the disease did not disappear until the 1600s.

Medieval society never recovered from the results of the plague. So many people had died that there were serious labor shortages all over Europe. This led workers to demand higher wages, but landlords refused those demands. By the end of the 1300s peasant revolts broke out in England, France, Belgium and Italy.

The disease took its toll on the church as well. People throughout Christendom had prayed devoutly for deliverance from the plague. Why hadn't those prayers been answered? A new period of political turmoil and philosophical questioning lay ahead.

Black Death - Disaster Strikes
25 million people died in just under five years between 1347 and 1352. Estimated population of Europe from 1000 to 1352.
1000 38 million
1100 48 million
1200 59 million
1300 70 million
1347 75 million
1352 50 million
The Bubonic Plague
The Black Death
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The John Tull and Lucinda Marker story: A santa fe couple's survival and healing journey with bubonic plague.


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