Black Death detected in California; one infected person reported

18/08/2020

A resident of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., tested positive for a highly infectious disease known as the "Black Death" during the Middle Ages, the first case recorded in five years in the state, health officials said Tuesday.

Black Death detected in California. The person is suspected of having been bitten by a plague-infected flea while walking his dog; this is the first case in five years. Image: Wikimedia
Black Death detected in California. The person is suspected of having been bitten by a plague-infected flea while walking his dog; this is the first case in five years. Image: Wikimedia

El Dorado County health officials said in a statement that they suspected the person was bitten by a plague-infected flea while walking his dog in the Tahoe Keys area or along the Truckee River corridor in central-eastern California. His investigation is still ongoing. Signs were distributed around South Lake Tahoe to warn of the presence of the pest and how to prevent exposure.

Plague, which has three variants, including bubonic plague, is a highly infectious and often fatal disease caused by bacteria that is spread primarily by rodents. It can now be effectively treated with antibiotics if detected early, El Dorado health officials said.

Plague is naturally present in many parts of California, including the higher elevation areas of El Dorado County.

It's important for people to take precautions for both themselves and their pets when outdoors, especially when walking, hiking, or camping in areas where wild rodents are present. "Human cases of plague are extremely rare but can be very serious," El Dorado County public health official Nancy Williams said in a statement.

By Agencies