Is the Bubonic Plague Still A Threat?

I find myself thinking about the Black Death incident in Europe centuries ago quite a bit. I’m not entirely sure why I am so fascinated by the whole scenario, but I have always found myself drawn to learning more about it. Most of the time I get the feeling that it’s just me that feels that way. I see posts on the internet or hear people’s opinions on the disease itself and, to me, it sounds like a lot of people don’t actually know a lot about the bacteria that causes the disease or the actual history of the distances that it has traveled.

On a completely different note (but the same topic), I want to talk about the bacteria that causes the bubonic plague.

Footnote: If left untreated, the bubonic plague becomes the pneumonic plague. Which, by the way, is still sort of treatable but usually if you get to that point, you die. So don’t do that. Get treated as soon as you notice the symptoms.

Anyway, back to the bacteria. One of the articles that I read had a really cool picture of the bacteria itself. I was a little skeptical of whether or not it was the real deal, so I did a little more digging around to see if any other news or science websites hosted the same image. I found at least one other credible news source via Pinterest that used it so I just wanted to share it with you guys. The scientific name of the bacteria itself is Yersinia pestis which I will probably never remember but at least this scientific name isn’t as complicated as some plants are.

Anyway! It travels through rodents (usually) unless someone has the pneumonic plague and coughs on you. Or gets any other bodily fluids on you. But the bubonic plague itself is usually transported via rodents.

I usually see one of two things. 1) Someone is completely terrified and convinced that “if the Black Death came back” that we would all die or 2) Romanticize it because a lot of people are enamored with the past in (in my experience) unrealistic ways. Instead of falling into one of these two categories, I think that people could benefit a lot from just reading some research.

Now I’m not going to beat around the bush or be gentle about this. The bubonic plague still exists. It still infects people and, sometimes, it still kills people. In 2015, a resident of Michigan was found to have the disease. What was most surprising about that case was that the person wasn’t from a rural area. Why is this important? Because statistically (according to the CDC), the bacteria involved in spreading the plague is usually found in more rural areas. While experts think that the person contracted the disease while visiting Colorado, it still stirred up a lot of talk about the disease.

I found all of the different reactions to be very interesting. One thing that really stood out to me was a tweet that I found. I honestly couldn’t believe that someone could be so casual about something that historically killed so many people.

Here’s the thing though. The bubonic plague is totally and completely treatable.  So in some sense, the overheard conversation on the train wasn’t too far off. While it sounds like the person who said it wasn’t very educated about the disease, the casualness of someone talking about it so flippantly both shocked me and made perfect sense. Especially with how far we have come in medical science. Anyway! I love how accessible information is for everyone on the internet. We also get to learn about other people’s perspectives on things like the bubonic plague.

Long story short, the bubonic plague definitely still exists and can for sure still kill people, but I really don’t think that it is a huge threat to people (especially to people who live in more urban, first-world areas). As someone who lives in Minnesota, I was surprised and a little nervous that there was a case of the plague so close to where I live, but doing the research to realize that, even if I did contract the disease, the likelihood of actually dying from it is pretty low.



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