Plagues


Health

Where the Black Death is most common in the U.S.

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© CDC
One dot placed in the county of exposure for each plague case.
A second case of suspected plague has been reported in Yosemite, California, barely more than a week after a child contracted the disease after visiting the park.

Also known as the Black Death, this is the same bacterium (Yersinia pestis) that wiped out millions of people in the 14th century. While the disease is rare in the U.S., it's not defunct. On average, we'll see seven cases per year:
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© CDC
The reason for the 1983 spike you see in the chart above could have been a result of cool moist weather in the western US, which may have allowed fleas to survive for longer and extended the length of the plague season in some areas.

You can get infected from a flea bite or contact with infected tissues or fluids from handling an animal — such as a squirrel, chipmunk, or other rodent — that is sick with or died from the disease. You can also get it from inhaling droplets in the breath of infected cats or humans.

Most of the cases tend to crop up in the rural West, especially in southern Colorado, northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, California, southern Oregon, and western Nevada — places that rodents that carry the disease call home.


Comment: Rodents probably had very little to do with the spread of the Black Death. There is a growing body of evidence that the plague has a cosmic connection:

An infection causes flu-like symptoms such as high fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin.

Comment: See also:


Attention

Yosemite campground shutting after dead squirrels found to be infected with plague


A bubonic plague smear, prepared from a lymph removed from an adenopathic lymph node, or bubo, of a plague patient, demonstrates the presence of the Yersinia pestis bacteria that causes the plague.
A second Yosemite National Park campground will be shut down for five days after a pair of dead squirrels were found to be infected with the plague, park and California public health officials said on Friday.

The closure of Tuolumne Meadows Campground comes a week after a child who camped elsewhere in Yosemite, one of America's top tourist destinations, was hospitalized with the disease.

The case marked the first time a human was known to be infected with the centuries-old scourge, which is carried by rodents and the fleas that live on them, in California since 2006.

Bug

Cases of Legionnaires' disease rises to record 108 in Bronx, New York

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© AFP/Spencer Platt
The Opera House Hotel is viewed on August 6, 2015, in an area of the Bronx which is the center of the outbreak Legionnaires disease in New York.
The number of people diagnosed with Legionnaires disease has risen to 108 as America's largest city suffers from a record outbreak of the form of pneumonia, authorities said Saturday.

No new deaths have been reported on top of the 10 announced earlier in the week and officials say the outbreak is now on the decline.

To date, 94 people have been admitted to the hospital with the infection since the outbreak began on July 10 in the south Bronx, the poorest section of New York state.

The disease is spread by a bacteria, which has recently been discovered in the cooling towers of five buildings in the South Bronx area.

Officials believe the cause of the outbreak came from one of the sites, which has since been cleaned and disinfected.

All those who died were older patients and had pre-existing medical conditions. Legionnaires' disease is not contagious and can be treated with antibiotics.

"This is literally unchartered territory," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday.

"We've never seen an outbreak of Legionnaires like this in the city," he told reporters.

Comment: See also:


Info

Younger Dryas climate episode due to cosmic impact say researchers

© YDB Research Group
The researchers studied the impact spherules in 18 sites in nine countries on four continents for this study.
At the end of the Pleistocene period, approximately 12,800 years ago—give or take a few centuries—a cosmic impact triggered an abrupt cooling episode that earth scientists refer to as the Younger Dryas.

New research by UC Santa Barbara geologist James Kennett and an international group of investigators has narrowed the date to a 100-year range, sometime between 12,835 and 12,735 years ago. The team's findings appear today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers used Bayesian statistical analyses of 354 dates taken from 30 sites on more than four continents. By using Bayesian analysis, the researchers were able to calculate more robust age models through multiple, progressive statistical iterations that consider all related age data.

"This range overlaps with that of a platinum peak recorded in the Greenland ice sheet and of the onset of the Younger Dryas climate episode in six independent key records," explained Kennett, professor emeritus in UCSB's Department of Earth Science. "This suggests a causal connection between the impact event and the Younger Dryas cooling."

Info

Gruesome Find: 100 bodies stuffed into ancient house in China

© Chinese Archaeology
The 5,000-year-old house found in China was about 14 by 15 feet in size.
The remains of 97 human bodies have been found stuffed into a small 5,000-year-old house in a prehistoric village in northeast China, researchers report in two separate studies.

The bodies of juveniles, young adults and middle-age adults were packed together in the house — smaller than a modern-day squash court — before it burnt down. Anthropologists who studied the remains say a "prehistoric disaster," possibly an epidemic of some sort, killed these people.

The site, whose modern-day name is "Hamin Mangha," dates back to a time before writing was used in the area, when people lived in relatively small settlements, growing crops and hunting for food. The village contains the remains of pottery, grinding instruments, arrows and spearheads, providing information on their way of life.

"Hamin Mangha site is the largest and best-preserved prehistoric settlement site found to date in northeast China," a team of archaeologists wrote in a translated report published in the most recent edition of the journal Chinese Archaeology (the original report appeared in Chinese in the journal Kaogu). In one field season, between April and November 2011, the researchers found the foundations of 29 houses, most of which are simple one-room structures containing a hearth and doorway.

Question

Mystery stomach bug hits Swiss watch capital

© Swiss Tourism
The Unesco World Heritage Site of Le Locle is Switzerland's third smallest city.
Residents of the Swiss city of Le Locle, world famous for its watch production, have been laid low by a nasty infection with authorities warning people not to drink the water.

"It's pretty intense," Bernard Vaucher, spokesperson for the city of just over 10,000 people told Le Temps newspaper on Saturday.

"People here aren't talking about much else," he said of the infection which has symptoms ranging from stomach cramps to diarrhoea and vomiting.

"A large proportion of people are affected," he added.

The causes of the infection are unknown but authorities are warning people to steer clear of tap water.

Samples of the town's water supply have been taken but results were not yet in on early Saturday afternoon.

The neighbouring town of La Chaux-de-Fonds is in no danger, experts say, as is it fed by a different water source.

Le Locle is one of the centres of Swiss watchmaking and is home to brands including Tissot and Zodiac. Together with its twin town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, Le Locle has been recognized as a Unesco World Heritage site

"The site presents outstanding examples of mono-industrial manufacturing-towns which are well preserved and still active," according to Unesco.

In the nineteenth century, the area was also a hotbed of anarchism with the Jura Federation key in the ideology's development.

Black Cat 2

Canoodling with wild animals and other cute critters could spread disease

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© Vanderlei Almeida/AFP
Leprosy is on the loose in Florida, thanks to the armored armadillo. Nine people have come down with the disease after coming into contact with the animal. Now wildlife experts are sending out warnings about the risks of cuddling with cute animals.

So far this year, nine people contracted Hansen's disease, the official name for leprosy, in Florida. It is caused by the Mycobacterium leprae bacteria, which can be found on nine-banded armadillos, Florida Department of Health deputy press secretary Brad Dalton told WTLV. The state normally sees two to 10 cases each year.

All of the affected patients said they came into contact with armadillos, but genetics plays a big role in who contracts leprosy after touching the animals, according to Dr. Richard Truman, acting chief of the laboratory research branch of the National Hansen's Disease Program in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"Between Texas and Louisiana and the southern United States, many millions of people have direct or indirect exposure to armadillos every day," he told NPR, noting that 95 percent of humans are completely immune to the illness.

Armadillos aren't the only animal to watch out for, though.

"All wild animals can harbor infectious agents that are harmful to people," Truman says. "If we leave animals alone and exercise caution, they don't pose a risk to us."

Comment: See also:

SOTT Exclusive: Natural Pet Health: Top 10 issues facing pet owners when it comes to your pets' well-being


Bug

Plague of Astrakhan: Locust swarm blots out the sun in Russian region (VIDEO)

© Reuters / Victor Ruiz
Near-Biblical scenes are emerging from the Astrakhan region in southern Russia, which has been invaded by giant swarms of locusts. Local authorities have scrambled vehicles and aircraft to combat the infestation.

The voracious insects are migrating dozens of kilometers every day, consuming crops as they go. Parts of the region have been put on high emergency alert.


Locust swarms appear in the area nearly every year, finding fertile breeding grounds on abandoned farmlands. This year, dry weather has created a superabundance of the creatures. The swarms include locusts of different ages, some only able to crawl and hop, others already on the wing.

Local authorities are using airborne crop-sprayers to spread insecticide over the affected areas. Flying sometimes as low as five or seven meters, the Antonov An-2 plane has managed to treat some 5,000 hectares with chemicals - out of a total of 29,000 hectares affected.

Health

Colorado teenager killed by Bubonic plague

Bubonic Plague has killed a teenager in Larimer County in Colorado, the local health department confirmed.
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Taylor Gaes
Taylor Gaes died on June 8 after coming into contact with fleas on a dead rodent or other animal. According to the health department, Gaes was the first person to carry the virus in the county since 1999.

Health officials are advising anyone who visited the Gaes' house before the cause of death was confirmed to seek medical attention, because there is a small chance they could have been bitten by infected fleas.

Bubonic plague symptoms typically occur within two to six days after being exposed to an infected rodent or animal.

Typical symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, sudden onset of fever or chills, severe headache, extreme exhaustion, and a general feeling of illness.

Cats that are infected usually show swelling and sores around the mouth, head, and neck, and appear to be ill. The disease can also be spread by inhaling bacteria.

Officials advise residents to avoid contact with all sick and dead rodents and rabbits. Residents should look for the presence of blow flies or dead animal smell as evidence of animal die-offs.These die-offs can be reported to Larimer County Health Department. Prairie dog colonies that suddenly are not active also may indicate plague activity in the area.

Comment: Despite popular belief, the bubonic plague that killed so many was most likely not spread by fleas. See:


Comet

Cyclical return of 'Black Death': Scientist considers 430 BC Athens Plague to be 'first Ebola epidemic'

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There is a widely held belief that the first outbreak dates back to 1976, in the Democratic Republic of Congo with the virus reemerging in West Africa in 2014. However, Powel Kazanjian, a professor of history and infectious diseases from the University of Michigan, suggests that the origin of the Ebola virus lies in Ancient Greece. His paper was published June 1 in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. Kazanjian believes he has traced the virus back to infected mice and rats some 20 million years ago. The virus may have become available for humans from the animal reservoir long before scientists found it in 1976.

The devastating Plague of Athens in 430 BC, which has been a bone of contention between historians and physicians, may have actually been caused by the Ebola virus, claims the professor. The illness was also known as Thucydides syndrome, after the name of the famous historian who survived such an infection. His description of the symptoms allows scientists to speculate about the roots of today's outbreaks. The first manifestation of the illness often led to death after a fever, headache, fatigue and stomach-ache. The professor added that some people experienced such a severe dehydration that they plunged themselves into wells trying to quench their unceasing thirst. No medication could help those who contracted the virus.

It's also known that the disease came from Egypt, more specifically from Ethiopia, the name ancient Greeks used to refer to the modern sub-Saharan region, where the Ebola epidemic of 2014 originated.

Comment: Clearly a particularly virulent virus - and very probably never quite the same one as before - periodically wipes out (or seriously decimates) the human population.

See also:

It finally reaches mainstream: Researchers argue 'Black Death' was due to Ebola, not Bubonic plague

New Light on the Black Death: The Cosmic Connection

New Light on the Black Death: The Viral and Cosmic Connection