The Black Death was little short of a bacterial apocalypse. The outbreak of bubonic plague, imported along the Silk Road, is thought to have killed between 25m and 50m people as it rampaged through 14th-century Europe. The disease thence resurfaced sporadically: the Great Plague of London, for example, felled a fifth of city dwellers in the 1660s.
While the plague seems to us a medieval affliction, it has never fully disappeared. On average, about 500 cases are documented globally each year, mostly in Africa, South America and India. The infection is treatable with antibiotics if caught early.
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Three people in New Mexico have been infected with plague this month, which is close to the number of plague cases that the state saw in all of 2016, according to health officials.
This week, the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) reported two cases of plague — one in a 52-year-old woman and one in a 62-year-old woman, both living in Santa Fe County, in the northern part of the state. Earlier in June, the state reported a case of plague in a 63-year-old man, also living in Santa Fe County. All three people were hospitalized, but all of them survived, NMDOH officials said.
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Credit: Janice Haney Carr/CDC
Use of an oral vaccine that protects prairie dogs from the plague will be expanded on the Charles M. Russell and UL Bend National Wildlife Refuges in Montana under a plan proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The new plan would allow for vaccine distribution on wilderness areas within the refuges and on nearby private lands when requested by landowners. The Service has completed an environmental assessment for the action and is seeking public comment on the proposal.
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