Oh, cool. In case you weren't sure totally sure that the end of days was upon us, the freakin' plague is here. Since the beginning of August, two northern Arizona counties have confirmed that fleas in the area have tested positive for the plague, the infectious disease that killed off about 60 percent of the European population in the 1300s.
Just a week after public health officials in Coconino Country found plague-carrying fleas on local prairie dogs, officials in Navajo Country warned of infected fleas in their area as well.
In response to the finding, the Navajo County Health Department advised residents to use caution in affected areas.
"Navajo County Health Department is urging the public to take precautions to reduce their risk of exposure to this serious disease, which can be present in fleas, rodents, rabbits and predators that feed upon these animals. The disease can be transmitted to humans and other animals by the bite of an infected flea or by direct contact with an infected animal."
Officials also warned people in the county to avoid sick or dead animals, and to keep their pets from roaming loose.
As alarming as this news is, instances of the plague are not unheard of in recent years, and in the United States, northern Arizona, northern New Mexico, and southern Colorado are hotspots for the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The CDC also states that in recent decades, an average of seven cases of the plague have been reported each year. The numbers are significantly higher in other parts of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and on the island of Madagascar. The World Health Organization receives reports of between 1,000 and 2,000 cases of the plague each year, but estimates that the true number of cases is much higher.
If you live in any of the affected areas, keep an eye out for symptoms of the plague, including sudden fever, headache, chills, weakness, and swollen or tender lymph nodes.
Fortunately, as scary as the plague may sound, it is fairly treatable in its current form, and according to the CDC, can be cured with commonly available antibiotics. Like most infectious diseases however, a patient's chances of recovery increase the earlier the disease is detected.
Actually, given how things have been going in the world lately, it might not be a bad idea to wear a full hazmat suit every time you leave the house, just to be safe.