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Bubonic Plague Case: Fleas Almost Kill 7-Year Old

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It sounds like something from a movie, but the story of a young girl contracting the plague from a flea bite is all too true, and she’s incredibly lucky to be alive.

7-year old Sierra Downing of Colorado was on a camping trip with her family in Pagosa Springs when she came across a dead squirrel. She’d taken off her sweatshirt and lain it on the ground, and when her parents told her not to come into contact with the animal–she wanted to bury it–she picked up her sweatshirt and tied it around her waist. Later, her parents found small bug bites where the shirt had been tied, but didn’t connect them to the sudden illness that sprang up when they returned home.

Sierra began exhibiting flu-like symptoms, but when her fever raged to 107 degrees, doctors knew it was something more serious. When they discovered the flea bites, they realized they could have something much more rare than the flu on their hands. After some research, they found similar cases of illness due to flea bites and connected the dots.

“That was my ‘Aha’ moment: could this be ursinia or bubonic plague,” said Pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Snow.

Luckily for Sierra, medicine has come a long way since the deadly plague infected up to 60% of the population in the middle ages. As soon as doctors knew what they were treating, they put the little girl on an antibiotic which cleared up the disease right away. She is now out of intensive care, her health improving steadily.

Bubonic Plague Case: Fleas Almost Kill 7-Year Old
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  • Divine

    It’s crazy how something as mundane and taken for granted as antibiotics were non-existent even 100 years ago. This girl would have been done had she been from an earlier time.