Reemergence of Plague

There has been abnormal upsurge in cases of plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, in the United States this year (CDC). As of April 1st of this year, there have been 11 reported cases and 4 confirmed fatalities in the USA as of August 27th, 2015 (AP). Many of the cases have been tied to people who have traveled to Yosemite National Park (CDC).

 Plague is epidemic in populations of wild rodentssuch as prairie dogs in many western states. Transmission to humans can occur through infected fleabites, direct contact with body fluids, and inhalation of droplets from infected individuals. After initial exposure, symptoms including fever, malaise, nausea, abdominal pain, “bubos” or lymph node swellings and even pneumonia can occur(CDC).

Mortality rate of untreated plague infected patients is between 66 to 93 percent. However, prompt treatment with appropriate antibiotics greatly reduces mortality of the infected. Misdiagnosis of Y. pestis is a common problem when using some automated bacterial identification systems (CDC). Fast and accurate identification in patients appears key for successful treatment and recovery of the disease.


Kwit et al. (2015). Human plague. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 64(33), 918-919.

Price, M. (2015). Utah man dies from plague in 4th fatal case in US this year. AP. Retrieved from