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Bubonic Plague In My Back Yard [Jul. 13th, 2007|03:16 pm]
Email received earlier this week:

The safety office and maintenance group have received reports from several employees that the prairie dog colony behind [my building] is empty. [My company] staff have taken no action to remove or destroy the prairie dogs. I've contacted [the] County Environmental Health Department to survey and determine if disease has hit the colony. We will be working closely with the agency and will follow their recommendations if it is determined that the colony has died off due to disease. In the mean time, please avoid walking through colony areas until we learn the results of the survey.

And today:
[The] County Public Health Department has examined the newly vacant prairie dog colonies behind [my building] and adjacent open space. They report there has been a prairie dog die off that is consistent with plague. Warning signs have been posted in the area. Samples of fleas have been collected and will be analyzed for the plague organism. I will post updates once we have those results.

In the mean time we are advised to avoid coming into contact with fleas and dead or sick animals. Please stay away from the colony areas. It is safe to use the sidewalks, bike paths and parking lots around [my building] – just keep off the grass/dirt.

Freaky! I think of things like plague as being relics of the past, but prarie dogs don't have antibiotics, poor things.

Life goes on as normal for all us humans, but unnoticed, right next door, there was an apocalypse going on, a pestilence of biblical proportion (on a relative scale). It sort of feels like a collision of worlds, this reminder that the things that are background in my life are foreground for someone else's, and might look very different up close. (Even if the someone is a rodent.)

[User Picture]From: dcseain
2007-07-13 11:21 pm (UTC)
Poor things. Of course, the way things are going, we won't have antibiotics either within 1 generation, thanks to antibacterial soaps, wipes, phones, overprescription of antibiotics, and the use of them on farm animals.
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[User Picture]From: lovecarnievan
2007-07-13 11:52 pm (UTC)
Coooool. If anyone gets a buboe, I wanna see it.
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[User Picture]From: ocschwar
2007-07-14 12:29 am (UTC)
New Mexico's wildlife have an equilibrium that keeps the plague bacillus present. A handful of people come down with it every year.
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[User Picture]From: pekmez
2007-07-14 01:11 am (UTC)
please keep off the grass despite any curiosity about what buboe look like, at least until the opportunity to bring bubonic plague germs to melted_snowball's next month has passed, ok? =)

I'd heard something about bubonic plague and prairie dogs somewhere, but it must be freaky to have it happening right outside your building. Poor prairie dogs.
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[User Picture]From: melted_snowball
2007-07-14 03:56 am (UTC)
It would be an interesting thing to explain to the Immigration people...
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[User Picture]From: thedragonweaver
2007-07-14 04:53 am (UTC)
Somehow it seems appropriate that the freaky weird happens where you work.
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2007-07-14 01:48 pm (UTC)
What kind of plague? This story amused me and I've been telling it anecdotally.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2007-07-14 03:07 pm (UTC)
I think it's bubonic plague. It sounds like the different variants of plague are all caused by the same bacterium, yersinia pestis, so there's no distinguishing until somebody gets it and has symptoms.

Oh, here we go: "Plague in wild animals is generally referred to as sylvatic plague."
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2007-07-14 03:30 pm (UTC)
I'm a little creeped out about the 99.5% die off statistic as it matches the 99.9% of germs killed by antibiotics. This is definitely one of those numerological associations with no scientific correlation; but still... spooky!

As I recall bubonic plague in humans was reported to have a 10-30% population survival rate depending on the previous exposure rate of the population.

I used to derive great comfort from reading about 'cured' or 'treatable' diseases. "Isn't it great to be living in this modern world!" I'd think. Now I worry that our relatively disease-free lives may be a temporary blip on the human radar.

Still, I think rabies is scarier.
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[User Picture]From: thedragonweaver
2007-07-14 05:39 pm (UTC)
Bubonic is the standard; pneumonic is when it infects the lungs and becomes transmissable through coughing and sneezing; septicemic infects the bloodstream and leads to major crazies before death.

The times of death speed up as you go through the list as well. Connie Willis' Doomsday Book gives a theoretical account of the plague that is fairly accurate as to effects; what I find interesting is that the book not only has a theoretical plague vaccine, it also has a temporary immunity course that we have today (gamma globulin.) Rob's niece, who didn't have an immune system for a while, had to get gamma globulin shots every time somebody around her caught a cold or the flu.
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