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Preventing Plague

Plague will probably continue to exist in its many localized geographic areas around the world, and plague outbreaks in wild rodent hosts will likely continue to occur. Attempts to eliminate wild rodent plague are costly and futile; therefore, prevention is directed toward reducing the threat of infection in humans in high-risk areas through three techniques:
  • Public health education
  • Environmental management
  • Preventive drug therapy.


(Click Plague Prevention for more information.)


How Common Is It?

Approximately 10 to 20 people in the United States develop plague each year from flea or rodent bites -- primarily from infected prairie dogs -- in rural areas of the southwestern United States. About one in seven of those infected die from plague. There has not been a case of person-to-person infection in the United States since 1924.
Worldwide, there have been small plague outbreaks in Asia, Africa, and South America. Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports 1,000 to 3,000 cases of plague every year. Current WHO statistics show there were 2,118 cases in 2003 worldwide.
Plague occurs more frequently during spring and summer months, especially in males and people under the age of 20.
(Click Where Is Plague? for more information.)

Plague and Bioterrorism

Bioterrorism is a real threat to the United States and around the world. Although the United States does not currently expect a plague attack, it is possible that pneumonic plague could occur through an aerosol distribution. The Yersinia pestis bacterium is widely available in microbiology banks around the world, and thousands of scientists have worked with plague, making a biological attack a serious concern.

The Plague

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