The Plague Has Returned

It Is Not as Bad as You Think

Image from

Image from

Laritza Tello

A California resident has tested positive for the bubonic plague making it the state’s first plague case in five years. This case was confirmed on Monday, Aug 17th at South Lake Tahoe According to the El Dorado County Department of Health and Human Services.  

The individual may have been infected by a contaminated flea while walking their dog along the Truckee River Trail north of Highway 50. The patient is currently in recovery at home under professional medical care and officials in Lake Tahoe posted plague warning signs in the area.   

The last reported human cases of plague in California were in 2015 when two people were exposed to infected rodents or fleas in Yosemite National Park. Both were treated and fully recovered.

The plague started in Europe and Asia hundreds of years ago.  It arrived in Europe when twelve ships from the Black Sea docked at the Sicilian part of Messina. This disease is caused by a bacteria called Yersinia Pestis. Plague bacteria are most often transmitted by fleas that have acquired it from infected rats, squirrels, chipmunks, other wild rodents, and a variety of other animals.  Since so many animals can be infected by this virus, it can spread easily via wildlife.

Some symptoms of the plague, also referred to as the Black Death, include; fever, nausea, extreme weakness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, bleeding from the mouth or nose, and swollen lymph nodes. These symptoms usually show up within two weeks.  While this plague has resulted in devastating losses in the past, with modern medicine, it is survivable.  

According to Sultana high senior, Arielle Lopez, “It’s a bit scary now that two deadly viruses are going around and that anyone can catch it without realizing they have the disease.” 

Luckily, the disease can be treated with antibiotics, but if it’s not caught early it can turn deadly. No human cases have been reported since, but authorities did find evidence that a total of 20 ground squirrels or chipmunks around South Lake Tahoe had been exposed to the plague bacterium from 2016-2019.

With the Coronavirus going around, the last thing we need to worry about is this minor setback with the bubonic plague.  While this is another hit close to home, Californians have bigger concerns.