Plague: Beware of media hyperbole | Outbreak News Today Outbreak News Today
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Back in November of last year, the Ebola outbreak was in full force in Western Africa and the African country of Madagascar was reporting their annual outbreak of plague reported about every year.

At the time the plague outbreak was being reported, some media outlets irresponsibly compared the two as one headline stated: “Quit stressing about Ebola – The bubonic plague is next“. The writer wrote, “OK. Ebola has gotten the nation and the world into a total frenzy, but of course, we’ve got yet another thing to worry about.”

I questioned, “Worry?”

Plague in the US/CDC

Plague in the US/CDC

Of course, I had to call that out that author as I did in the following post: Worry about the plague?

I understand that plague does conjure up images of horrible, unimaginable mass death; however, certain headlines recently of stories of the recent plague cases in the US are just plain hyperbole.

As of this writing, their has been 6 confirmed human plague cases and three deaths, and an additional case being investigated in a Georgia resident who visiting let’s for argument sake say 7 cases.

One headline today said, “Plague Besieges California, Colorado and New Mexico”. Besieges? As in overwhelms or bombardes?

I don’t think so.

The CDC says ” In recent decades, an average of seven human plague cases have been reported each year (range: 1–17 cases per year).”

A study published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in 2013 says that from 2000 to 2009, the US saw 56 human plague cases (Avg. of 5.6 a year).

Colorado, which has reported 4 human cases this year to date, reported eight cases in 2014.

New Mexico, which has seen one case in 2015, reported two last year.

True enough, California hasn’t reported a human plague case since 2006; however, I hardly consider what we are seeing in the US so far in 2015 as being “besieged”.

By all accounts to date, it is an average year in the US for human plague. Let’s not make it more than it is by sensationalizing it.

Instead, educate people on what they can do to prevent plague in themselves and their pets, for examples: Avoid sick or dead rodents and rabbits, and their nests and burrows; Keep your pets from roaming and hunting; Talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product on your pets as not all products are safe for cats, dogs, or your children; Clean up areas near the house where rodents could live, such as woodpiles, brush piles, junk and abandoned vehicles; Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian; See your doctor about any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever; Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home and Don’t leave your pet’s food and water where mice can get to it.

Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today

Follow @bactiman63

LISTEN: Dr. Paul Ettestad, State Public Health Veterinarian with the New Mexico Department of Health discusses the plague

Related news:

Tularemia cases reported in Coconino County, AZ; 1st in county in a decade 

New Mexico: 3 tularemia cases reported in Bernalillo County, plague confirmed in Santa Fe dog 

Possible tularemia infection reported in North Pole resident





  1. Cathy Milne says:

    While I appreciate your comments and your pingback, there are two things you should know. First, I am assigned articles. Second, I researched my data based on the states I was writing about. I try very hard not to sensationalize my work.

    Also, while I would love to give advice I cannot because I write news. In my blog I can add the advice and I will pingback your article when I finish my blog post.

    Again, thank you,
    Cathy Milne

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