US teen dies of rare, hard to diagnose plague



By NewsGram Staff Writer

In an intriguing death tale, a 16-year-old boy in Colorado who appeared to have a common flu has died from a rare case of the plague.

Taylor Gaes died on June 8 but his illness was not revealed until Friday, a substantial four days later.

“The telltale sign of the infection – swollen lymph nodes–which would have alerted officials to the illness sooner, could not be detected in Taylor Gaes’ illness”, said Katie O’Donnell, a Larimer County Health Department spokeswoman.

On Saturday, O’ Donell said that the plague was “very rare, and hard to diagnose.” Taylor’s fever and muscle aches, further made his sickness appear like the flu.

The plague has been contracted by three people in Larimer County, Colorado in the last 30 years and is passed to people by fleas on rodents such as squirrels, rats and mice.

The plague that took Taylor’s life is yet to be uncovered, though health officials suspect it to be bubonic plague, since it is the most common and easiest to transmit through bug bite.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), septicemic and pneumonic plague, in which the germs reproduce in the bloodstream or lungs, are more dangerous varieties of the disease because the symptoms are harder to diagnose and the health of the patient deteriorates faster.

It is suspected that Taylor, most likely encountered a flea from a sick rodent that wandered onto his family’s property from a neighboring rural area.

Official say that the chances of people attending memorial services for Taylor on his family’s property having contracted the illness is small, though it cannot be ruled out completely.

“It’s a pretty far reach, but it’s possible,” O’Donnell said.

It is quite possible that infected fleas could have bitten some of the guests at the memorial services at his family’s home.

People have been informed and warned of the disease in Larimer County, which includes Fort Collins. They have been advised to visit a doctor immediately if they develop a high fever.

Patients diagnosed with the any of three types of plague, caused by some bacteria, are treated with antibiotic prescriptions.

Cases of plague in rodents in rural areas have been confirmed by the Health Department but O’ Donell says that they do not pose a threat to people living in populated areas as they are far away from public land.

According to the CDC, the disease exists in northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, southern Colorado, California, southern Oregon, and far western Nevada.

On an average, the US records seven human cases of plague each year and fatalities are rare.