Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Bubonic plague outbreak feared in central Asia

Tuesday 27 August 2013 14.48 BST
Health officials fear an outbreak of bubonic plague in central Asia after a teenage boy died from the disease and three more were admitted to hospital in Kyrgyzstan.

Temirbek Isakunov, a 15-year-old from a mountain village near the border with Kazakhstan, reportedly died from the disease last week after eating an infected barbecued marmot. Kyrgyzstan's emergency ministry said a young woman and two children from a different village who came into contact with Isakunov were hospitalised on Tuesday with the high fever and swelling around the neck and armpits characteristic of bubonic plague, local news outlets reported.

A total of 131 people, including 33 medical personnel, have been quarantined, although none of them have yet exhibited symptoms of the disease, the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda in Kyrgyzstan reported. The health ministry continues to find and quarantine people who came into contact with the teenager, according to its director.

Kazakhstan has stepped up its border control with Kyrgyzstan and is operating quarantine points in light of the possible outbreak, the news agency Tengrinews reported. The Kazakh health ministry is searching out people who might have come into contact with the dead teenager, and is also determining where animal carriers of the disease might be moving between the two countries, according to a ministry official.

Los Angeles campgrounds closed after plague-infected squirrel found
Thursday 25 July 2013 18.59 BST

Health authorities have closed three campgrounds in a forest near Los Angeles after the discovery of a squirrel infected with the plague.

County officials and the US Forest Service shut the campgrounds in Angeles national forest on Wednesday after a trapped squirrel tested positive for the disease.

"Plague is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas, which is why we close affected campgrounds and recreational areas as a precaution while preventive measures are taken to control the flea population," Jonathan Fielding, head of the county health department, said in an advisory.

Bubonic plague was known as the black death when it devastated medieval Europe, killing millions, but is now rare, treatable with antibiotics and seldom fatal to humans. There have been just four cases of human plague in LA county residents since 1984, said Fielding. All survived.

The shuttered campgrounds, Twisted Arrow, Broken Blade and Pima Loops, are on Table Mountain, part of the San Gabriel mountains, near the town of Wrightwood.

The ground squirrel – part of a group so named for preferring to live on the ground rather than trees – was trapped for routine surveillance on July 16. The test result was confirmed on Tuesday.

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