Colorado Girl Staves Off Bubonic Plague, Gains Unfair Advantage in Future AP European History Class


The bubonic plague, which helped build most of 14th century Europe’s character, probably wiped out Constantinople in 542, and is the primary antagonist in both a pretty sweet novel about New Orleans called A Recent Martyr by Valerie Martin as well as a pretty sweet movie about New Orleans called Panic in the Streets, has reared its ugly, swollen lymph nodes in Colorado for the first time since 2006. A 7-year-old girl named Sierra Jane Downing contracted the disease after camping in southwest Colorado.

Though Sierra Jane is now making a quick recovery and, according to doctors at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, could go home in a week, things were dodgy there for a little while, mostly because plague is so rare that healthcare workers can mistake its early symptoms (fever, chills, headache, vomiting and diarrhea, you know, all the fun stuff) for flu. The girl’s 107-degree fever put her life in jeopardy, but Dr. Jennifer Snow was able to sleuth her way towards a diagnosis thanks to a brief history of Sierra Jane’s camping trip and an online article (the internet is omniscient, after all).

According to federal health officials, only seven cases of plague are reported on average in the U.S. each year. Doctors think that Sierra Jane owes her bout with plague to an adorably empathetic deed — she tried to bury a dead squirrel (which was probably crawling with plague-carrying insects) she found while reveling in the simultaneously wondrous and harrowing beauty of nature.

7-year-old Colo. girl recovers from bubonic plague [AP via USA Today]

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