For the first time in five years, a California resident has tested positive for the human plague. The positive test was recorded on a resident of South Lake Tahoe who reportedly is an avid hiker.
The negative connotation associated with the plague date back to the 1300s, when the plague, or ‘Black Death,” swept across Europe, killing large numbers of the population.
Plague is naturally present in many parts of California, but that shouldn’t be a cause for panic. It’s a relatively rare occurrence – the United States averages seven cases a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and is treatable.
Just the word “plague” can cause uneasiness, however, and there’s a lot of misinformation that can be found on the Internet.
Clark, your friendly pest control, termite, and grounds care expert, would like to set the record straight and share facts, not fiction, about the plague and how it can affect you.
We visited with Clark Pest Control Technical Manager Blair Brookes to get the facts:
Q: What do consumers need to know about the plague?
A: Even though headlines from last week’s case in South Lake Tahoe sound like just more bad news for 2020, this doesn’t come as a surprise to public health officials. Plague is still present today, and the U.S. has averaged seven cases a year over the past few decades.
Q: How is it spread?
A: Plague is a disease caused by a specific bacterium, Yersinia pestis. The most common way humans can get plague after being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the disease.
Q: What is the threat to Californians?
A: Unlike the lethal bubonic plague of the past, today’s cases – while extremely rare – are usually curable with an antibiotic treatment. Mortality rates are around 10 percent, but can jump to 90 percent if left untreated. Overall, the threat is low if you seek treatment upon showing symptoms.
Q: How can you protect yourself?
A: Dogs and cats can bring plague-infected fleas into your home, so be sure your pets are on a flea treatment program. Clark Pest Control technicians handle flea treatments often, none of which have resulted in a customer catching plague. Fleas should still be taken seriously, since they are a vector for disease, so it’s best to get a treatment right away. If you live in a rural area and encounter wildlife, keep your pets away from dead rodents or burrows to reduce your risk. Individuals should take precautions for themselves when outdoors, especially while walking, hiking, and/or camping in areas where wild rodents are present.
Q: What are the misconceptions about “plague”?
A: When you read the headlines of a new plague case, it sounds as if the disease is resurging. However, the bacteria causing the plague (Yersinia pestis) exists naturally on all continents but Antarctica and Australia. Modern medicine and sanitation allow us to keep plague at bay. This disease is highly treatable and preventable, so don’t panic and take the simple steps to keep your pets and home flea free.
Call or text Clark at (800) WE-NEED-YOU (936-3339) if you have any questions or concerns about the plague and what causes it. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Until next time, the pest management professionals at Clark Pest Control thank you for helping to keep unwanted pests out of your home and yard.