July 13th, 2007

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Bubonic Plague In My Back Yard

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.)