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You may have heard about the recent outbreak of plague that is decimating the island of Madagascar in Africa. Already there have been 680 infections and 57 deaths during this outbreak. It was also announced in the last few months that two New Mexico residents were hospitalized with plague and that fleas tested positive for plague in 2 counties in Arizona. During the middle ages, plague was transmitted mostly by rats and was responsible for the deaths of 50 million people, 60% of the population of Europe at the time. So, what is plague and what do you need to know?



What is Plague?

Plague is a disease caused by the bacteria yersinia pestis and is mostly found in small animals and their fleas. Rats, prairie dogs, squirrels, and voles are some of the biggest carriers. There are 3 forms of plague: Bubonic (lymph nodes), Pneumonic (lung-based), and septicemic (blood stream). Symptoms of plague can include: fevers, chills, aches, vomiting, nausea, and major swelling of the lymph nodes. Fatality from Plague ranges from about 30%-60% for bubonic, and the pneumonic variety is almost always fatal if left untreated.


The “Black Death,” as plague was sometimes called, is still alive and well in some regions of the world. In Madagascar, Peru, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there have been plague outbreaks in 2017. These impoverished areas where rats and fleas are rampant are a haven for the bacteria. The history of plague is scary, but luckily, today antibiotics are effective against plague if treated early. Plague has been almost eliminated from the United States, but still crops up on occasion, especially in hot, dry areas like the Southwest.

How can you prevent plague?

Although plague is not a huge concern in the United States, there are some basic things that can be done to keep you and your family safe. Pay attention to the news to hear about any possible outbreaks. If you hear that plague has been found in the area, don’t let your pets run free, and always ensure proper flea control. Watch for a large die off of prairie dogs or other rodents. If you come across something like this, report it to authorities so the situation can be monitored. It is also a good idea to never handle animal carcasses directly or attempt to feed rodents.


While the news stories about plague from around the world may sound scary, the chances of contracting plague in the Midwest are extremely small. That being said, rodents like mice, voles, squirrels, etc. also carry many other diseases like: hantavirus, salmonellosis, and leptospirosis. It is best to always keep the rodent population around your home and property under control. If you need help controlling voles, rats, or other rodents, call Midwest Pest Control. We serve the greater Tulsa area and Northwest Arkansas. We are a family owned and operated company and want to earn your business and trust.