An elderly man in Utah has died from the plague this week.
Considering that we haven’t had any recurrences of that whole “Black Death” thing, people can perhaps be forgiven if they erroneously believe that the plague, the historic plague, has gone the way of smallpox, rabies and other such dreaded diseases of the past and been eradicated. I will confess to being among that number. Anybody else want to own up to it? In reality, though, smallpox is still around; there was fear a few short years ago of a reemergence of the disease. Likewise, the plague is still with us. Not an immediate death sentence, as it was for the populace of Dark Ages Europe, maybe, but still dangerous. Left untreated, there’s at least a fifty percent chance it’ll kill you. With treatment it still might. And there is an average of seven new cases of the plague in the United States every year; this year there have already been twelve.
I didn’t know there were outbreaks of the plague in 1900 and again in 1924. These weren’t Black Death-scale epidemics, thankfully, but just knowing it’s still out there is worrisome enough. There is even a “plague line” that the CDC draws across the map of the continental US, designating the areas most likely to see new outbreaks. It’s all due to the migration patterns of wild rodents and the fleas who hitch rides with them—and the pathogen hitching a ride inside the fleas, the little bastard.