Can you still catch the plague?

Spoiler alert: the answer is yes.

The plague never really died out. That’s right, the same plague that ravaged medieval Europe still affects people today! Across the world there are more that 2,000 cases recorded each year. In the USA, approximately 8 people are diagnosed with the plague, mostly in rural states where the prairie dog is responsible for its spread. It is caused by the enterobacteria Yersinia pestis.

In mid 2014, four cases were recorded in Colorado after a dog infected with the pneumonic plague, with symptoms including vomiting blood had to be put down. In the process, its owner, a neighbour and the two vets who carried out the procedure became infected and had to go to the hospital. The owner of the dog was in hospital for 3 weeks, but thankfully all four victims are expected to make a full recovery. Due to the rarity of this illness, medical staff initially thought the 4 people had pneumonia, and it wasn’t until investigating the context of the infection that they were able to identify the true cause of their symptoms.

88 people were given medical treatment as a precaution, but no other cases were recorded. Bubonic plague (spread by fleas) is actually the more common of the two, but pneumonic plague, spread by contact with bodily fluids, is much more contagious and dangerous.

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