Lucinda Marker and John Tull were infected with bubonic plague in 2002 from fleas infected with Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes the disease. While there are only approximately seven cases of plague in the United States each year, New Mexico generally accounts for half of them.
The couple was vacationing in New York at the time symptoms began to appear, and hospitals there took a day to identify the cause. Marker recovered quickly from the disease after antibiotic treatment. However, Tull developed septicemic plague, a deadly blood infection. Hospital staff had to amputate both his legs below the knee to drain out the infection and save his life, but Tull’s recovery has allowed him to drive, and fish. However, Tull has not been able to enjoy hiking since he was infected, despite vowing he would find a way to return to the trails around his New Mexico home.
Humans may be exposed to bubonic plague from fleas that feed off pack rats, ground squirrels and prairie dogs in New Mexico and surrounding states. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes the disease entered the U.S. around 1900 from Asian rats on board ships that docked in San Francisco. The disease was originally concentrated in cities, but eventually spread to wild animals. Today, prairie dogs are the main carriers of fleas infected with the disease.
While it is rare to be exposed to bubonic plague, New Mexicans should be aware of the symptons, which include a sudden fever, headache, chills, weakness and painful swelling of the lymph nodes. For more on these plague symptoms, please visit the CDC website.
If you experience a flea outbreak in your home, it most likely will not result in plague. However, it is important to address the outbreak immediately. Pest Defense Solutions can always assist you with your pest control needs. For more information about our pest control services, please click here or fill out a contact request form.Tags: Bubonic Plague, Extermination, Fleas, ground squirrels, pack rats, Pest Control, Prairie Dogs, Squirrels, Yersinia pestis