Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What's next? Bubonic plague?

Yes.

Oh, I'm sorry, was that supposed to be a rhetorical question?

My post title is the headline of an article at Inside Higher Ed (linked in the post title) about the recent outbreaks of mumps, whooping cough, and tuberculosis at college campuses. And as the second commenter at IHE points out, bubonic plague does indeed still exist (ETA: right here in the United States, in fact -- see that commenter and also my first commenter below). I don't have a link for this, but I remember hearing a story on NPR in the last year about miners in South Africa contracting it, and in some it developed from bubonic to pneumonic -- and as I understand it, that's where things can get really scary.

Just a friendly reminder that the past is with us.

Oh, and PS -- Happy Halloween! Nothing like the threat of infectious diseases to make this holiday especially spooky!

9 comments:

crowbaraz said...

Actually, the Black Death is with us here in the USo'A - in the soil and in some animals in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, probably the entire western US. I was a bit boggled by the casual warnings in backpacking guides about it (don't kiss any packrats, etc). Seems like there's a few cases amongst farmers, archaeologists, biologists every year, and I get the impression they take some penicillin and go on home. I don't know anything about mortality from the plague here prior to the 20th century, but it is weird to ponder.

Dr. Virago said...

Yes, that's what the second commenter at Inside Higher Ed said, too -- that it was endemic to the Southwest US, especially among its rodents. Spooky!

New Kid on the Hallway said...

That's what I was going to say! I love freaking my students out with that information. A friend of mine was going to India on a trip and if she'd been staying longer she'd have been advised to get a vaccination against the plague.

Bardiac said...

When I was an undergrad Bio type, and had a class where we livetrapped rodents, we were warned that if we got a fever within some time limit after trapping, we should hie ourselves to student health and tell them it might be the plague. Someone said a grad student had got it the summer before, but that may have just been all about scaring us.

Ecce Equus Pallidus said...

Yep. In our area of the country, we get a few plague cases a year - and if the victims are unlucky enough to head home before getting ill, then they generally wind up being our few plague deaths a year, as non-Southwestern doctors don't often look for the plague.

BikeProf said...

One of my students told me yesterday that she has whooping cough. At first I thought she was joling--who has whooping cough these days?--but it was the real thing.

Dr. Virago said...

Oh bikeprof, be careful!

And Equus -- no wonder there's such a collection of medievalists in your neck of the woods! :)

And to all: so this morning, Bullock and I were feeding our collective gallows humor by suggesting that academics should die of the epidemic or pandemic disease most suggestive of their periods of study. For instance: medievalist should die of the plague, 18th and 19th century-ists of consumption (TB), Modernists of the flu, postmodernists of AIDS, etc., etc.

OK, yeah, we're sick puppies. Te-hee!

Murky Thoughts said...

At least it's not the Spanish Inquisition.

Dr. Virago said...

Well, MT, *no one* expects the Spanish Inquisition! :)