7-Year-Old Catches Bubonic Plague from Dead Squirrel’s Fleas

A 7-year-old girl from Colorado is being treated for bubonic plague. While on camping trip with her family, Sierra Jane Downing began showing symptoms of nausea, chills, headaches, and bloody diarrhea.

Initially, her parents believed their daughter came down with a flu until she was suffering seizures. Downing was eventually brought in with a fever of 107 degrees at Rocky Mountain Children’s hospital following an accelerated heartbeat and low blood pressure. The little girl had apparently come into contact with a dead squirrel she wanted to bury in the woods.

Dr. Jennifer Snow, a pediatric doctor at the hospital thought quickly to save her life when she examined the other obvious symptoms: swelling in lymph nodes, severe coughing, vomiting, and deliriousness. “If she had stayed home, she could’ve easily died within 12 to 24 hours from the shock of infection,” said Snow. It was the first case she had seen in her career as a physician regarding the condition. According to federal health officials, an average of seven cases are reported annually.

The bubonic plague which killed one third of Europe’s population in the 14th century, can be transmitted to humans through fleas that have had contact with infected animals. Luckily with the modernization of medicine, the illness can be easily treated if caught early and with antibiotics. Thankfully, Downing is expected to return home and back to her normal self within a week after recovery.

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