There are certain illnesses that families are accustomed to dealing with. There are colds, there are flus, there are the occasional ear infections, but an illness like the Bubonic Plague? That is not what most American parents in this day and age would anticipate dealing with, but that’s just what 7-year-old Sierra Jane Downing of Colorado was diagnosed with. How did she get such an old sickness?
After returning from a camping trip in southwest Colorado, Sierra did not feel well and the little girl’s family assumed she had just a flu. But after she began to have seizures, they realized something else could be wrong with her. They rushed her to the hospital where she had a fever that clocked in at 107 degrees. Sierra’s parents were, obviously, very concerned. “I didn’t know what was going on. I just reacted,” Sean Downing said. “I thought she died.”
The doctors at the hospital were “baffled” at first but then diagnosed the Sierra with something her parents never would have expected the Bubonic Plague aka the “Black Death.” Although very rare now, the bubonic plague, as our history books have taught us, was a devastating illness. Back in the 14th century it was credited with wiping out about one-third of Europe’s population.
Sierra was transferred to a hospital in Denver where, as the Huffington Post reported, “Dr. Jennifer Snow suspected the disease based on the girl’s symptoms, a history of where she’d been, and an online journal’s article on a teen with similar symptoms.” Her diagnosis was confirmed through tests and Sierra was given the proper antibiotics to fend off the illness. If caught and treated early, the Bubonic Plague can be very treatable.
As for how Sierra caught the Bubonic Plague, her mother said her daughter had wanted to bury a dead squirrel they found while they were camping. Her mother told her no, but later Sierra was spotted with her sweatshirt on the ground near the squirrel’s body. Later she put on the same sweatshirt. It is believed that insects that had been near the squirrel’s corpse had bitten Sierra, infecting her with the Bubonic Plague. Insects such as fleas are one of the main carriers of the plague.
While many of us, present company included, were under the assumption that the Bubonic Plague was long gone, there are still about 1,000 to 3,000 cases per year with just about 10 to 20 reported in the United States. Colorado’s last case was in 2006.
Did you realize the Bubonic Plague was still around?
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