Dr. Weeks’ Comment: It is troublesome when governments preserve and tinker with deadly viri and pathogens. “Life finds a way”, Jeff Goldblum’s scientist character tells us in Jurasic Park. (see below for full quotation).
Deadliest, Rarest Form of Plague Contracted Near Denver
A Colorado man is infected with the rarest and most fatal form of plague, an airborne version that can be spread through coughing and sneezing.
It is the first case of pneumonic plague seen in the state since 2004, said Jennifer House, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The man, who hasn’t been identified, may have been exposed in Adams County near Denver, health officials said in a statement. While House said the man has been hospitalized and treated, she wouldn’t release other details about his situation.
“He’s on treatment long enough to not be transmissible,” House said in a telephone interview. He may have contracted the illness from his dog, she said, which died suddenly and has also been found to carry the disease.
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“We don’t think it’s out in our air,” House said. “We think it’s in our dead animal populations and dead rodent populations.”
Plague in all of its forms infects only about seven people yearly in the U.S. The disease occurs when a bacterium named Yersinia pestis infects the body, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The difference between the pneumonic and bubonic varieties is that the bacteria take hold in the lungs in the first case, rather than underneath the skin through insect bites. Both types are treated with antibiotics.
The state is working “to investigate the source of exposure and to identify those who may have been exposed through close contact with the individual,” the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in its statement. “Any individuals exposed will be recommended for antibiotic treatment.”
Colorado has had 60 cases of all types of plague since 1957, and nine people have died, the state said.
“The reaction is leaning toward people who are tired of the protection of prairie dogs on some level,” said Jim Siedlecki, director of public information of Adams County. “Most people look at them as cute little dogs on the side of the road, but in rural Adams County they are looked at as a rodent who damages crops and is potentially plague-ridden.”
The Deadliest Disease on Earth
Adams County, home to 470,000 residents, with 425,000 living in the Denver metro area, is one of Colorado’s fastest-growing counties and among the 20 fastest-growing counties in the nation.
Untreated plague is fatal, and antibiotics have to be given within 24 hours of the first symptoms to reduce the chance of death. Symptoms of the disease include fever, headache and chest pain, along with a pneumonia that develops rapidly causing shortness of breath, chest pain and bloody mucus, according to the CDC.
There is no vaccine available for plague in the U.S. The bubonic form is the most common, best known for its outbreaks in the Middle Ages.
Colorado officials recommend that residents keep pets away from wildlife, especially dead rodents. The plague can spread from animals after a large die-off of prairie dogs, when fleas with the bacteria seek new hosts, according to the state.
“The message we’re trying to get out is that the plague bacteria is present here in Colorado, and to take necessary precautions to avoid getting infected,” House said.
To contact the reporters on this story: Sonali Basak in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org; Jennifer Oldham in Denver at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Reg Gale at firstname.lastname@example.org Drew Armstrong
FROM JURASSIC PARK
Dr. Ian Malcolm: If I may… Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now
[bangs on the table]
Dr. Ian Malcolm: you’re selling it, you wanna sell it. Well…
John Hammond: I don’t think you’re giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody’s ever done before…
Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.
John Hammond: Condors. Condors are on the verge of extinction…
Dr. Ian Malcolm: [shaking his head] No…
John Hammond: If I was to create a flock of condors on this island, you wouldn’t have anything to say.
Dr. Ian Malcolm: No, hold on. This isn’t some species that was obliterated by deforestation, or the building of a dam. Dinosaurs had their shot, and nature selected them for extinction.
John Hammond: I simply don’t understand this Luddite attitude, especially from a scientist. I mean, how can we stand in the light of discovery, and not act?
Dr. Ian Malcolm: What’s so great about discovery? It’s a violent, penetrative act that scars what it explores. What you call discovery, I call the rape of the natural world.
Dr. Ellie Sattler: Well, the question is, how can you know anything about an extinct ecosystem? And therefore, how could you ever assume that you can control it? I mean, you have plants in this building that are poisonous, you picked them because they look good, but these are aggressive living things that have no idea what century they’re in, and they’ll defend themselves, violently if necessary.