L.A. Woman Being Treated for Bubonic Plague

Although the mention of bubonic plague strikes fear in the hearts of most people, the disease is not contagious and can be treated with antibiotics. It is the more serious and deadly pneumonic plague, into which bubonic plague can change if left untreated, that has the potential to wipe out entire populations of people.

Thus, health officials were quick to identify, isolate, and treat the first case of bubonic plague in Los Angeles in over 20 years.

The infected woman presented with a fever, swollen lymph nodes, and other symptoms on April 13. Blood tests confirmed the diagnosis of bubonic plague.

Bubonic plague can be transmitted to humans bitten by fleas that have been infected by dead rodents. This patient is thought to have been exposed to fleas in her central Los Angeles home. As a precaution her family was also placed on antibiotics although there is no sign of additional infections. 

While health officials are testing animals from around the area of the woman’s home, they do not want people to be alarmed as the problem has been contained at this point. The plague is considered a bioterrorism agent and suspected cases must be reported by doctors to health agencies under state law. 

Bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death, killed well over 20 million people in Europe between 1346 and 1351.  A 1924-1925 outbreak in Los Angeles killed at least 30 people. 

Bubonic plague is common in squirrels in the Angeles National Forest and other parks in California. For this reason, campers and hikers are regularly warned to take precaution against the disease by avoiding potentially infected animals. 

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