A remarkable and disturbing discovery is a reminder that old diseases like the Plague are still around and kicking even today.
It’s been centuries since the bubonic plague, also referred to as the Black Death, swept through Europe and wiped out a huge portion of the world’s population. And now, it’s reared its ugly head in Arizona, as officials have positively identified the disease in fleas in two counties int he state.
Health officials in Navajo and Coconino counties in Arizona have issued a warning after they found that fleas tested positive for Yersinia pestis, which is the bacteria responsible for the bubonic plague. Fortunately, no illnesses have been reported yet, but flea bites are certainly capable of spreading the disease. The disease is also spread through handling of fluids or tissue of some animal with the illness, or it can be transmitted through body fluids like respiratory droplets.
Health officials are warning people to take precautions to reduce exposure to the disease, as fleas can be present not just in fleas but rodents, rabbits, and predators that feed on the animals.
“Coconino County Public Health Services District (CCPHSD) officials confirmed that fleas collected in the Red Lake area, approximately five miles northeast of Williams, tested positive for plague (Yersinia pestis),” reads a statement from the county. “The tests were conducted by the Center for Pathogen and Microbiome Institute at Northern Arizona University. CCPHSD is notifying area residents. The burrows are being treated and the area will be closely monitored to determine if further action is required. This is the first location in the County where fleas have tested positive for plague this year. Because the disease is endemic in Coconino County, there are likely additional locations with infected fleas. CCPHSD Environmental Health staff will continue to collect and test flea samples from locations throughout the County.”