Utah man dies of the plague

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah man in his 70s has died after contracting the plague, bringing to four the number of deaths from the disease reported in the United States this year, health officials said Thursday.

Officials are still trying to determine how the Utah person contracted the disease, but believe it might have been spread by a flea or contact with a dead animal, according to the state Department of Health.

“That’s the most common way to get it,” said JoDee Baker, an epidemiologist with the agency. “That’s probably what happened, but we’re still doing an investigation into that.”

JoDee Baker, with the Utah Department of Health, speaks during a news briefing.  An elderly Utah resident has died after contracting the plague earlier this month, health officials said Thursday, noting it's the state's first recorded death from the disease in over three decades. State and local officials are still trying to determine how the person contracted the disease but believe it might have been spread by a flea or contact with a dead animal, according to the Utah Department of Health, Salt Lake City, Utah, Aug. 27, 2015 | AP Photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News
JoDee Baker, with the Utah Department of Health, speaks during a news briefing. An elderly Utah resident has died after contracting the plague earlier this month, health officials said Thursday, noting it’s the state’s first recorded death from the disease in over three decades. State and local officials are still trying to determine how the person contracted the disease but believe it might have been spread by a flea or contact with a dead animal, according to the Utah Department of Health, Salt Lake City, Utah, Aug. 27, 2015 | AP Photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

Plague is a rare disease that is carried by rodents and spread by fleas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 11 other cases have been reported in six states since April 1. The other three people who died were ages 16, 52 and 79.

Anywhere between one and 17 cases of the illness have been reported each year in the U.S. since 2000, according to the CDC. Deaths are rare, with no more than two a year having been recorded over the past 15 years.

However, Dr. Paul Mead, a chief of epidemiology with the CDC’s office in Fort Collins, Colorado, said four deaths so far this year is not necessarily a cause for alarm.

“Yes, it’s twice as many, but when you’re dealing with small numbers, you have that kind of variation,” he said Thursday.

Patients in a few of the 11 other cases this year came down with the plague after visiting Yosemite National Park in California.

The last human case of plague in Utah was in 2009, but state Health Department spokeswoman Charla Haley said no deaths from plague have been recorded in the state in at least 35 years.

Haley said the latest patient got the disease in Utah, possibly after being in rural areas and near campgrounds. The person was hospitalized about five days after coming down with symptoms and died in mid-August at the University of Utah’s Hospital.

This Aug. 6, 2015, photo, shows prairie dogs, in southern Utah. Utah health officials said Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, that a resident who died from the plague in August mostly likely contracted it from a prairie dog infected with the disease. State wildlife officials say the only confirmed outbreak of plague in prairie dogs this year was in an eastern Utah colony | AP Photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News
This Aug. 6, 2015, photo shows prairie dogs in Southern Utah. Utah health officials said Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, that a resident who died from the plague in August mostly likely contracted it from a prairie dog infected with the disease. State wildlife officials say the only confirmed outbreak of plague in prairie dogs this year was in an eastern Utah colony | AP Photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

State health officials declined to release the patient’s age, gender or hometown, saying the person’s family wanted to keep those details private. However, Mead confirmed the Utah case involved a man in his 70s.

Health officials checked with family members who may have been exposed to the person, but Baker said the incubation period has passed and no family members or anyone else reported symptoms.

Plague is naturally occurring in Utah rodents and is often seen in prairie dog populations, the Department of Health said. Wildlife and health officials confirmed in July that an outbreak of bubonic plague killed 60 to 80 prairie dogs in an eastern Utah colony.

Annette Roug, a veterinarian with Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources, said Thursday state investigators found prairie dog burrows near the person’s property but no sign that animals were still living there.

Roug said if wildlife officials find prairie dog burrows in the area, they may treat them with insecticide to kill fleas that carry the disease. She declined to say where the affected area is in Utah.

Human cases of plague often occur in areas where wild rodent populations are near campsites and homes. Transmission between people is rare.

Baker said anyone going to rural areas or campgrounds can protect themselves by wearing insect repellent; thoroughly cooking any wild game and sanitizing knives and preparation tools; wearing gloves when handling or skinning wild animals; and ensuring pets are wearing flea collars.

Story by Michelle L. Price, Associated Press

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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16 Comments

  • fun bag August 27, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    I know that Nolan will have some expert advice on this one. Nolan, we eagerly await!

    • mesaman August 27, 2015 at 7:03 pm

      Send death certificate to the Bammie department. Can be used for democrat candidate vote in the 2016 election.

      • 42214 August 29, 2015 at 7:26 pm

        Mr Mesaman, explain what a “Bammie department” is please.

    • mesaman August 27, 2015 at 7:05 pm

      And, scumbag, the next post you make with personal information in it will get you removed from the site. Try it and see.

      • fun bag August 28, 2015 at 11:52 am

        Uhhh, what personal information would that be? Chris is the one who outed you, and you never denied your identity, so we all know who you are. Do you not want your little 2nd grade playground insults to be tied to your “spotless reputation”? You might as well just post under your real name “mesaman”. And once again it would sure be nice to see some comments of substance from someone with such an extensive educational background,,,ya think? Oh and ya I can picture you calling up the editor and whining and crying about “mean ol’ fun bag” posting so much personal info on you… GROW UP AND STOP BEING SUCH A LITTLE BABY! 🙂

        • Chris August 28, 2015 at 3:05 pm

          Yes, I confess, it is I who is responsible for outing Nolan. What I did is not a violation of the terms of use, despite what he believes. What I revealed is the truth, and as such, is not defamatory. I made no use of any proprietary information to determine his identity. I simply deduced it from bits of information the he provided in past posts. So, in essence, you outed yourself, Nolan. I have yet to be removed from the site, and neither has anyone else, for using your name in my posts. I agree with fun bag that you should “stop being such a little baby.”

          • fun bag August 28, 2015 at 3:55 pm

            What I don’t understand is how someone who acts like he does can be qualified as an “associate professor of psychology”. Was his teaching similar to his comments on here?

          • Chris August 28, 2015 at 5:35 pm

            I don’t know what his teaching was like. However, you have to realize that psychology is basically a bull crap subject masquerading as a “science.” Furthermore, Dixie State was a backwater junior college that had no psychology degree program for nearly all of Nolan’s career. So, being a second rate intellect at a “no place” college was good enough to keep him employed as a “professor.”

          • 42214 August 29, 2015 at 11:49 am

            I googled him. Most student comments said he was a kooky old man. Most actually positive but many did say he was a lousy instructor that taught them nothing.

    • Dexter August 27, 2015 at 9:21 pm

      Hey FUN BAG MESAMORON got his depends in a knot. LOL.!

    • Dexter August 28, 2015 at 4:06 pm

      When it comes to cry babies its a tie between REAL LIFE VILLAGE IDIOT and MESAMORON

  • abby August 27, 2015 at 10:18 pm

    You know what funbag? You and your little pals need to get a life. You are nothing but internet bullies. I really wish the editor here would do something about you and your friends. I personally think that you are the same sick person posting as different names. You are off your rocker, and you need help. God bless your soul.

  • Dexter August 28, 2015 at 12:59 am

    You know what ABBY. you and your little friends need to get a life. you are nothing but a Internet bully. I wish the editor would do something about you and your friends. I think you’re the sick person posting as different names. you should be ashamed of yourself. God help your soul…. You’re off your rocker

    • Real Life August 28, 2015 at 12:16 pm

      How can your posts get dumber and dumber every day? Amazing. Your poor mother has to be severely depressed at the huge mistake she has created.

  • Dexter August 28, 2015 at 8:00 pm

    Hello My Real name is ABBEY and the name DEXTER is one of the names I Use

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