Why plague—one of history’s deadliest diseases—still afflicts U.S. wildlife
Centuries after it ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages, plague remains endemic in the western U.S. Here’s why—and the risk it poses to humans today.
Summer is here—and with it, scientists predict an uptick of plague outbreaks in rural parts of the western United States among local wildlife that can spread to humans.
Yes, you read that right: plague. The disease that killed as many as 200 million people from Central Asia to Mesopotamia and Italy—wiping out half of Europe’s population in the mid-1300s—doesn’t just loom large in history, it still exists. And it’s not even that unusual.
In the U.S. most cases occur from late spring to early fall in the West, particularly in New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, California, Oregon, and Nevada. In August 2021, California officials had to close parts of Lake Tahoe after a dead chipmunk tested positive