First off, I should say that the story about the squirrel testing positive for Bubonic Plague in Colorado is absolutely true. You may have read the story, or the headline, and determined - our world is really upside down. First COVID-19 spreads around the world and causes a  pandemic and now we're going to have to worry about the same plague that killed over 100,000 people in France in the 1700's.

Take a deep breathe. Now, let me tell you why the story that went viral about the squirrel is irresponsible and misleading.

While Bubonic Plague is dangerous and throughout history has killed millions of people; and even though it is considered the second most deadly disease in human history, second only to smallpox; you can relax because we have it under control with antibiotics. In fact, since 2000 according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), only 14 people in the U.S. have died from Bubonic Plague and there have been fewer than 100 cases here. Furthermore, since 1970 there has been only one single case of the plague reported in the entire Eastern United States and that was in Ohio.

Today, Bubonic Plague is prevalent in the western United States in places like rural Colorado, where the big plague story originated. The reason this squirrel story was taken out of context is because in Colorado, Bubonic Plague is equivalent to the rabies cases we experience here in Central New York. Rabies is dangerous, especially for pets and animals, but we have it under control because we know how to deal with it. Imagine if some reporter picked up the story that a skunk had tested positive in Rome, NY and the rest of the country blew the story up as if we were in the midst of a rabies epidemic here.

That's exactly what happened with the story about the plague in Colorado.

The fact is, if you live in Colorado you're educated on how to avoid Bubonic Plague. You know it's spread by fleas who make contact with rodents and small animals. If you're from there, you've consumed all of the public service announcements on what to do if you suspect symptoms and what you need to do to avoid it. Just like we make sure people here are educated and know how to avoid rabid animals here.

So yes, if you live in or travel to a western state, especially in a rural area, you do need to make sure you take the proper precautions against the Bubonic Plague. The Colorado State Health Department even puts out a fact sheet on the disease answering all the questions to make sure their residents are doing all the right things to avoid the plague.


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