A seven-year-old girl in Colorado is recovering after being diagnosed with the bubonic plague.
Sierra Jane Downing began exhibiting symptoms about a week ago, shortly after returning from a camping trip with her parents. They thought she had the flu. But, when she started having a seizure, her father rushed her to an area hospital in southwest Colorado. The doctor there couldn't identify the source of Downing's ails either; the little girl also had a 107-degree fever. From there, she was flown to Denver.
There, a doctor began following clues to diagnose the rare disease that Sierra Jane had, using her symptoms and her location before her symptoms. Dr. Jennifer Snow also used an online history which detailed the similar symptoms of a teenager with the disease.
Sierra Jane had a high heart rate, low blood pressure, and a swollen lymph node in her groin so painful that it hurt her to even undergo the ultrasound necessary to identify it. But, despite her discomfort, Dr. Snow says that, if her parents had not acted quickly like they had, Downing would be dead. If she had stayed home, she would have died within 24 to 48 hours from the shock of the infection.
It was the first bubonic plague seen by Dr. Snow and her colleagues.
There had been no confirmed cases of the bubonic plague in the United States until 2006, when four cases were recorded. On average, federal officials say that there are seven cases each year in the United States. In fact, the cases seem to be on the rise; through the disease is generally associated with filthy conditions, it seems to be on the rise in affluent American communities where people move to more natural environments and have increased contact with wild animals.
Medical Daily reported earlier this summer on the case of a man who contracted bubonic plague from a cat bite. Paul Gaylord was a welder, and his illness was so severe that doctors needed to amputate his fingers and toes. He questioned whether he would be able to continue performing his job.
Downing seems to be more fortunate. Doctors say that she may be discharged from the hospital in as little as a week.
Her parents believe that she contracted the disease from insects near a dead squirrel that she wanted to bury. The plague is transmitted by the Yersinia pestis bacterium, which can result in gangrene. That, in turn, can lead to amputation and death.
The bubonic plague wiped out a third of the population of Europe in the 1300's. Today, it can be treated with antibiotics.