Plague In North America

Rat Flea

Rat Flea

The Bubonic Plague caused large numbers of deaths in Europe and Asia in the 1300s.  The bacterium that causes the disease, Yersinia pestis, is harbored in the rodent population. Stowaway rodents on ships are implicated in spreading the plague from Asia to Europe. Although London and other cities had outbreaks of plague in the 1600s, and ships traveling to North America harbored rodents, plague did not spread from Europe to North America. The first documented case of plague transmission in North America occurred in Chinatown, San Francisco in 1900 during a period of plague outbreak in China. Other ports as far east as New Orleans reported cases of plague but those did not become endemic in those areas. Yersinia pestis, entered the native rodent population in California and the western US. It exists at low levels today from Texas to Montana. Human outbreaks of plague have not occurred in the US and Yersinia pestis, has not spread to Eastern North America. A few cases of plague are reported every year, indicating its presence and ability to infect humans. The factors that keep it from causing massive epidemics are not well understood.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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