Michigan has just reported their first documented bubonic plague case in the state’s public health history, confirmed by state officials.
The adult recovering from the bubonic plague resides in Marquette County. The rare flea-borne illness was contracted during a trip they took to Colorado. At this time, officials are reassuring the public that there is not cause for alarm or concern, even though the disease does have a long-standing connection to the microorganism that originally caused the Black Death plague in Europe in the 1300’s, which at that time killed millions of people, according to USA Today.
“It’s the same organism but in this case, the infection resides in a lymph node,” said Terry Frankovich, medical director for the Marquette County Health Department.
Symptoms of the bubonic plague include one or more swollen, tender and painful lymph nodes in the groin, neck or armpit.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the bubonic plague is often contracted by bites from infected fleas of from direct contact with the tissues or body fluids from an infected animal. The highest risk area is in environments that have food and shelter that attract rodents like campsites or cabins.
The Michigan resident who suffers from symptoms of the bubonic plague was spared a much more intense, contagious pneumonic form of the plague. The pneumonic plague can pass easily between humans and deeply infect the lungs which causes a rapidly developing pneumonia. This often leads to respiratory failure and shock.
There is also a third form of the plague called septicemic. This happens when the plague organism multiples in the blood leading the body to shock and organ failure. This happened just earlier this year in the case of a Colorado teen.
“Theoretically, the illness can move to bloodstream or to a lung infection, but this (Michigan) individual had localized infection, so there’s no concern about transmission,” Frankovich said.