After a new case of the bubonic plague rattled the part of Mongolia near the Russian border, it appears the infamous plague strain responsible for killing between 50 million and 100 million Europeans during the 14th Century has now been discovered in Colorado, where a squirrel recently tested positive, according to local news reports.
The squirrel was discovered in the Town of Morrison in Colorado, according to Jefferson County Public Health officials, who made the announcement in a statement released over the weekend. The squirrel, discovered on Saturday, is the first case of plague in Jefferson County in modern history.
Tests were run after a concerned townsperson saw at least 15 dead squirrels lying around town. When one of the bodies was tested, it came back positive for plague.
Officials expect the other dozen or so dead squirrels were also infected.
Though it can now be treated with antibiotics, the plague can spread among pets. Cats and dogs who play outside are particularly susceptible.
Cats are highly susceptible to the plague and can catch it from flea bites or a rodent scratch or bite, or by ingesting a rodent. Cats may also die if not properly treated with antibiotics, officials said.
For those who aren't familiar with the history of the Black Death, here's some background courtesy of NatGeo:
"Arguably the most infamous plague outbreak was the so-called Black Death, a multi-century pandemic that swept through Asia and Europe,” according to National Geographic. “It was believed to start in China in 1334, spreading along trade routes and reaching Europe via Sicilian ports in the late 1340s. The plague killed an estimated 25 million people, almost a third of the continent’s population. The Black Death lingered on for centuries, particularly in cities. Outbreaks included the Great Plague of London (1665-66), in which 70,000 residents died."
Though of course that doesn't answer the most important question: How did it get to Colorado?