A Kin of the Plague in Our Own Backyards



With the anti-vaccine movement being a hot-button issue right now, the frequent media coverage on new cases of previously dormant diseases comes as no surprise. Measles, mumps, and whooping cough are among the relatively common of these illnesses and can be serious if not treated, but the severity pales in comparison to similar cases hundreds of years ago. Until this drive of people choosing to not vaccinate started, most of the previously deadly diseases were out of sight and out of mind to most. The bubonic plague, or black death as it was called at the time, was one of those dormant diseases and was a vast epidemic. It has thankfully not sprung up as other diseases have as of late.

This got me thinking. With all this attention on cases of diseases previously mentioned, are diseases that have been with us all along getting the same type of media attention? It doesn’t seem that way.

Lyme Disease has been a rising culprit of chronic illness in the last ten years, more so than ever before. (MDH) Although it was previously not as life-threatening as some of these resurfacing diseases, the impact Lyme Disease can be detrimental, and was reported in 2014 to cause sudden cardiac death in some cases. (Baillon)  

This type of Lyme Disease is called Lyme carditis, and has a few eerie similarities to the plague. Being a bacterial disease that is carried by ticks, the disease has a far-reaching ability to affect unsuspecting hosts, as fleas carrying plague did in the 14th century. The hosts of the infected fleas also came by ship, which was a large part of daily life for millions in the 14th century, as woods activities are a large part of daily life in Minnesota. Although the plague was significantly more gruesome in its effects, the tendency for bacteria to transform and become resistant to vaccine implies a possibility of Lyme becoming a larger threat. The likelihood of Lyme disease showing up as a “target” near the contact point gives it yet another similarity to the plague in its effects of the skin when a host shows symptoms of the disease.

With the risks of Lyme increasing as well as it’s cases, which have increased by over 40% in the last ten years then the decade before (MDH), the need for awareness is also on the rise. As a native to Minnesota, I always knew to be aware of ticks and to avoid them if convenient, but I was naïve to the risks and effects of Lyme Disease until recently. As we have seen from the extinguish of the bubonic plague as well as countless others, awareness and prevention are key. As Minnesotans, we have the privilege of exploring our great outdoors but also need to be cautious in our adventures, and I for one will take the risk.

Billon, Jeff. “Tick Bite Proves Fatal for Minnesota Man.” Fox 9 News. N.p., 26 June 2016. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

MDH. “Lyme Disease Statistics.” Minnesota Department of Health. N.p., 29 Mar. 2017. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.


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