( 4UMF NEWS ) 7-Year-Old Girl Battles Bubonic Plague:
A seven-year-old girl is recovering at a Denver hospital from a rare case of bubonic plague she likely contracted from fleas from a dead squirrel at a southwestern Colorado campground, hospital officials said on Wednesday.
Sierra Jane Downing is “fortunate to be alive,” but is on the road to recovery after her near-fatal bout with the disease, the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children said in a statement.
It is the first confirmed case of bubonic plague in Colorado since 2006, the hospital said.
Sierra’s father Sean Downing described how his daughter had a seizure and stopped breathing for a couple of minutes.
“I thought she died, and I was just running for the ER,” he said.
At first, Sierra’s parents — and even Sierra herself — thought the illness was a flu. “She told me, ‘Mommy, this is just the flu. Can’t we go home?’” Darcy Downing said.
Bacteria that cause bubonic plague are carried by rodents and can be transmitted to humans through parasitic fleas or the handling of infected animals.
Today, the disease is treated with antibiotics, and seven U.S. cases a year are reported on average, most of them in the western states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
Sierra was at an outing with her family in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, last month when she came across a dead squirrel that she tried to bury, hospital spokeswoman Angie Anania said.
“She never touched the squirrel, but laid her jacket next to the dead squirrel, and the fleas looking for a new host might have jumped onto the jacket,” Anania told Reuters.
The girl tied the jacket around her waist, and doctors discovered bites on her torso, which led them to believe the plague came from the squirrel encounter, Anania said.