Nobody ever likes seeing their home state listed on Promed Mail. The Associated Press ran an article about a wildlife biologist, involved with the cougar tracking program that died near the Grand Canyon, November 2nd, 2007. Apparently, Eric York had performed a necropsy on the cougar, 3 days before his death.
All his contacts were placed on prophylactic antibiotics and are not showing symptoms of the disease. The cougar did test positive for plague and was noted to be from an area not frequented by park visitors.
The real name for the plague is Yersenia Pestis and it is a bacteria. This is the famous “Black Death” that killed an estimated 75 million people in the mid 1300’s.
There are 2 main types of Plague, Bubonic and Pneumonic. Beubonic plague is known because the disease forms buboes in the lymph nodes, causing them to swell and become blackish/blue. 90% of buboes form in the groin area. The transmission is from fleas that live on rodents such as rats. The flea bites the human and transmits the bacteria. As seen in the above article, handling infected animal tissue also transmits the plague.
Pneumonic plagues is spread via respiritory droplets and has been the cause of devestating outbreaks. The case fatality rate of the plague is between 50 and 60%. Primary symptoms of this version include cough and often hemoptysis (bloody sputum)
Plague is found wordwide and there are approximately 15 new cases reported in America, each year. There is a vaccine for beubonic plague, but not the pneumonic form. Prophylaxis for those in contact with a known case is tetracycline 15-30 mg/kg divided into 4 doses per day for 7 days. Treatment of a confirmed case of plague is with streptomycin.
More about the plague can be learned from the CDC Plague Page