Arizona fleas now carrying the plague, doctors warn

Black Death

Black Death

"Because the disease is endemic in Coconino County, there are likely additional locations with infected fleas", said the public health department.

Plague is infamous for causing deadly pandemics throughout history, including killing millions of Europeans in the Middle Ages.

No human cases have yet been reported from the new discovery - but health officials in Navajo and Coconino counties say they are taking careful precautions and increasing monitoring.

Over the past several weeks, public health officials in two Arizona counties - Navajo County and Coconino County - have confirmed that fleas have tested positive for the Yersinia pestis bacteria, which causes the three forms of the plague.

While news of the plague may come as a shock to some, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said studies show that bubonic plague surfaces from time to time in southern US states during cool summers that usually come after wet winters.

Fleas from both counties were tested by the Center for Pathogen and Microbiome Institute of Northern Arizona, officials said. In late June, the New Mexico Department of Health confirmed two human cases of the bubonic plague had been confirmed in Santa Fe county.

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There are three types of plague - bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic.

"Western parts of the United States have had ongoing plague transmission in rodents for over a century", Adalja told Newsweek.
But outbreaks became less frequent and were eventually eradicated with modern sanitation practices. A 63-year-old man had also been diagnosed with the plague about a month earlier.

To be clear, no deaths or illnesses have been reported in the region so far. Although rare, it is believed up to 300 people still die each year from it around the world, though only a very small number from the US. If you think you've been bitten by a flea in the area, contact your doctor immediately.

Bubonic plague has nearly completely vanished from the developed world, with 90 per cent of all cases now found in Africa.

The Navajo County Health Department also recommended pet owners to be aware of their cats, as they are susceptible to the plague.

Symptoms of the plague include sudden onset of fever, headache, chills, and weakness and swollen, tender and painful lymph nodes referred to as buboes.