Could the Plague Occur in Minnesota?

abc

(CDC – Center for Disease Control)

The Plague or Black Death. It refers to the second pandemic that began in China in 1334 eventually spreading to Europe. An enormous number of people died. Estimated numbers of sixty percent of the population in Europe died. The World Health Organization estimates that fifty million people died from the pandemic during that outbreak. Entire populations in some towns were wiped out, and it is believed that so few people were left in many towns that there was no one to bury the dead. It must have been horrific for those that were left behind with extreme numbers of dead rotting corpses. It is likely that the very young and very old would have died first but for anyone left in those towns it must have been a disturbing scenario

Giving thought to such a large percentage of the population dying, I wonder if we could have another catastrophic event like the great plague occur in the United States.  According to the Center for Disease Control, “we now know that plague is caused by a bacterium called Yersinia pestis that often infects small rodents (like rats, mice, and squirrels) and is usually transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected flea).” The map above from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows that cases of the plague continue to occur but in low numbers. It is interesting that there have not been any cases in Minnesota and the highest concentration of cases have occurred in the western regions of the United States.  Even though we have not had any cases in Minnesota, it is still a disease that we need to monitor. People travel, and we have many people that come here from other areas of the world. With air travel, we have direct contact with people from all countries right at the Minneapolis/St Paul Airport. They may not be stopping to stay, and just connecting flights, but the contact is there. The World Health Organization monitors the spread of diseases in the world today. Their data shows that there have been plague epidemics throughout the years, but most cases have been in Africa since the 1990’s.  Most recently, the WHO was notified of an outbreak of plague in Madagascar with the first case identified on August 17, 2015.  Fourteen cases were reported with ten deaths.

After infection, the disease has a rapid progression. With prompt identification, it can be treated with antibiotics and kept from spreading. Both the CDC and the WHO are experts on the disease. The information used from the CDC provided the historical data on the disease, and that of the WHO provided much of the current issues of the disease today. In Minnesota, there haven’t been any cases this century, but the threat of bioterrorism with plague –causing bacteria is a concern in today’s terrorist ridden world that I had not considered before researching the information on the CDC and WHO websites.

-Evan Franzen

http://www.cdc.gov/plague/history/ (historical source).

http://www.who.int/topics/plague/en/ (contemporary source).

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