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Bubonic plague strikes again...
November 7, 2002 6:52 AM   Subscribe

Bubonic plague strikes again... It seems that bubonic plague has never actually gone away with reports of occurences in Madagascar, Bolivia and now it seems, from New Mexico. Given that the disease has been diagnosed and treated outside of the host cities in the cases of the Bolivian woman and the couple in New York, I think this highlights how diseases we tend to classify as third world health problems, are merely a plane ride away from causing an outbreak here.
posted by gloege (26 comments total)

 
So we need to outlaw planes! Problem solved!
posted by byort at 6:57 AM on November 7, 2002


I think 'outbreak' is somewhat alarmist. The 'plague' is not communicable person to person. It's also less threatening than the West Nile virus, being a bacterial infection as opposed to a virus, and treatable by antibiotics.

See: plague.

It evokes images of massive death, but is really only as threatening as the flu in today's society.

Infecting the NY City rat population with plague would end up being a minor inconvenience as opposed to some kind of massive threat.
posted by rich at 7:01 AM on November 7, 2002


From the article:

A wood rat and fleas from the rodent that were found on the couple's property in Santa Fe, New Mexico, tested positive in July for plague...

Umm, July?! You'd think they'd have been a bit more suspicious of early flu symptoms, or would have stuck near their doctor...
posted by jalexei at 7:09 AM on November 7, 2002


The article points out that more than half the cases of bubonic plague in the US occur in New Mexico. We don't get a lot, usually once every year or two someone comes down with the plague here. (Our local SF convention is called "Bubonicon").
posted by teo at 7:12 AM on November 7, 2002


I don't think we need to worry about the plague, as such: apparently scientists are on top of it as we speak. I was under the impression we get about a dozen cases of bubonic plague in the U.S. every year anyway. (Actual stats elude me.)

But drug-resistant tuberculosis? Oh, boy.
posted by furiousthought at 7:14 AM on November 7, 2002


"I think 'outbreak' is somewhat alarmist. The 'plague' is not communicable person to person."

True, that. But I think I have a higher rate of getting bitten by a flea than, say, bitten by a person. ;) No seriously, to quote from this article: "The bacteria can also be spread when sick people cough up infected droplets in what is known as pneumonic plague - an even more deadly variant of bubonic plague."

While I also understand your point about the flu, it seems a small percentage of the population (about 20,000 Americans) will die from flu complications each year. Granted, that is on average and excluding years where millions die worldwide...

And it seems there is some concern that the plague is becoming drug-resistant as well. To quote from furiousthought's first link: "Experts fear the bacterium that causes bubonic plague is becoming resistant to antibiotics, and that the disease could re-establish itself across the world...". Okay, they are developing a vaccine but to date efficacy is apparent in only half the people using the drug.

Those are not comforting statistics if you fall in the other 50% I would think...
posted by gloege at 7:26 AM on November 7, 2002


Maybe if everyone would stop using antibiotic soap, and antibiotic combs, and antibiotic everything we wouldn't have all these resistant bacteria developing....
posted by hyperizer at 7:56 AM on November 7, 2002


hyperizer: Agreed. Why does everything have to be anti-bacterial these days? We seem to be hell-bent on simultaneously weakening our immune systems and strengthening bacteria.

Especially stuff for kids--kids are supposed to eat dirt and get colds. It's how their immune systems develop.
posted by Fabulon7 at 8:05 AM on November 7, 2002


I would have thought that, here in New Mexico, people would be more concerned about rats and mice. There's the whole hantavirus thing here that's quite a big concern during certain weather cycles, especially in the Native American communities.
posted by answergrape at 8:16 AM on November 7, 2002


answergrape: that's exactly what i'm thinking. i once had a mouse in my closet and i was all freaked out until he left.

stinkin mice!

as i told my mother at the time, though, if i did get the hanta virus i was only a short jaunt away from the best hospital in the world to take care of me.

sometimes she doesn't think i'm funny.
posted by sugarfish at 8:34 AM on November 7, 2002


From The Situation Room, a politics/satire blog:
Republicans Take Control; Bubonic Plague Breaks Out in New York

Coincidence? We report, you decide.

Turning now to weather, we expect a light shower of locusts after midnight, developing into a rain of frogs tomorrow. There is a small craft advisory, as the rivers are running red with blood.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 8:35 AM on November 7, 2002


Far more dangerous than the biological viruses carried by 3rd worlders who are pouring into this country by the millions every year, are the thought viruses (memes) that they bring with them. The same memes that built countries like Mexico and China and Columbia and Panama and El Salvador are infecting our culture. These memes reek of peasant ignorance and superstition and adherence to tribal customs and thought patterns and behavior. We are devolving through meme importation.

That is why I support a moratorium of all immigration from undeveloped countries.
posted by bannedThrice at 9:44 AM on November 7, 2002


Having grown up in New Mexico, I can tell you the bubonic plague is nothing new. One or two people die of bubonic plague in New Mexico every year. Plague carrying fleas seem partial to prairie dogs, and New Mexico has loads of prairie dogs. Bubonic plague really isn't strictly a "third world health problem," unless you want to classify New Mexico as part of the thrid world.
posted by gruchall at 9:53 AM on November 7, 2002


Maybe if everyone would stop using antibiotic soap, and antibiotic combs, and antibiotic everything we wouldn't have all these resistant bacteria developing....

I talked to a medical student about this, and she said this is basically nonsense.
posted by gyc at 9:59 AM on November 7, 2002


As Gruchall and others have reported, bubonic plague is nothing new. It's common in squirrels in Nevada. They temporarily close a park somewhere in the state every few years after a squirrel tests positive for the plague. Standard warning is that the fleas that carry the plague can stay alive on a squirrel a day or so after it dies, SO DON'T PICK UP ANY STINKING DEAD SQUIRRELS.
posted by stevefromsparks at 10:06 AM on November 7, 2002


I talked to a medical student about this, and she said this is basically nonsense.

Not according to the AMA and WHO:

The WHO report said increasing use of antibacterial household products like soap and other cleansers is worsening the situation.

The American Medical Association recommended greater government evaluation of such products Wednesday, saying their use "may be a potential source of antibiotic resistant organisms."
posted by hyperizer at 10:32 AM on November 7, 2002


I talked to a medical student about this, and she said this is basically nonsense.

Well, that sure makes me breath easier. After all, I'm sure a medical student knows much more than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thank goodness for the beneficent knowledge imparted upon us by wise medical students.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:33 AM on November 7, 2002


Thank you very much mr_roboto. That's a much better link.
posted by hyperizer at 10:57 AM on November 7, 2002


So what kind of soap isn't anti-bacterial that I could pick up? Seems like everything in the store is. Anyone got any specifics ones I could look for?
posted by swank6 at 11:15 AM on November 7, 2002


Why use soap? Urine works just as well.
posted by blogRot at 11:40 AM on November 7, 2002


Technically, I think rat urine is the best, unless you can get ahold of enough flea urine.
posted by hackly_fracture at 12:24 PM on November 7, 2002


Far more dangerous than the biological viruses carried by 3rd worlders who are pouring into this country by the millions every year, are the thought viruses (memes) that they bring with them. The same memes that built countries like Mexico and China and Columbia and Panama and El Salvador are infecting our culture. These memes reek of peasant ignorance and superstition and adherence to tribal customs and thought patterns and behavior. We are devolving through meme importation.

That is why I support a moratorium of all immigration from undeveloped countries.
posted by bannedThrice at 9:44 AM PST on November 7


Well, thats a load of racist, thoughtless nonsense. No-one else bothered by it?
posted by dash_slot- at 1:43 PM on November 7, 2002


We were ignoring the troll, dash. (And doing a pretty good job of it, too!) I must say, however, that I did appreciate seeing an attempt at an old-school troll here on Metafilter. Most comments that get called "trolling" here these days are overstated political viewpoints: what we would have called "flamebait" back in the day, and not nearly as artful as a well-executed troll (just as obnoxious, though). Despite my reluctant appreciation, I have to note that bannedThrice's comment was missing some elements that would have made it a truly great troll. Here are some hints: try using some made-up statistics or a fabricated quote next time. Better yet, link to a completely irrelevant web page--that really confuses 'em!
posted by mr_roboto at 2:15 PM on November 7, 2002


dash_slot: just decided not to feed the troll. On preview, what mr_roboto said.
posted by swerve at 2:45 PM on November 7, 2002


So what kind of soap isn't anti-bacterial that I could pick up? Seems like everything in the store is. Anyone got any specifics ones I could look for?

Jergens has a liquid handsoap that does not contain any of the 'bad' stuff. Dr. Bronner's soaps, as well.

There are multiple bar soaps that don't have the anti-bacterial crap in them. It make take some work, but, it's well worth it.

I do have a personal stake in this, though. I just got out of the hospital after a severe infection in my legs, that was caused by one of those antibiotic resistant bugs.
posted by SuzySmith at 3:58 PM on November 7, 2002


i seem to remember reading that the bubonic plague never leaves...it just hides underground, literally, for a while till the squirrels and rats get at it and bring it above ground.
posted by copper at 9:20 PM on November 7, 2002


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