Persistence of Yersinia Pestis

According to this semi-scientific article, Yersinia Pestis, the agent of the plague in the 1940s in Oran, still existed in the same place in Algeria when the article was written in 2006:

“Rieux, the hero of Albert Camus in “La Peste,” aimed to relate the events of the plague outbreak in Oran in the 1940s with the highest objectivity. He stated that “the virus” of plague can come back 1 day and he asked to be aware when it did. Apparently plague has retired but is waiting in numerous foci and could reemerge, as it did in India during the 1990s. The “comeback” of plague in the region of Oran occurred in June 2003. In this study, we detected Y. pestis in rodent fleas collected from September 2004 to May 2005 in the same area as those plague cases occurred. Our results confirm that Y. pestis infection is still present in Algeria. The persistence of zoonotic foci of plague is worrying since persons living in these areas remain in close contact with rodents and fleas. Despite the absence of new cases since June 2003, the risk for further outbreaks remains high. Surveillance should be maintained to monitor this natural focus and potential spread resulting from climatic or habitat influences. A strong case could be made to extend surveillance to adjacent countries such as Libya and Mauritania, which also have natural foci of plague, according to the World Health Organization. In conclusion we believe that detection of Y. pestis in fleas can be a useful tool for epidemiologic surveillance of plague in specific settings and could thus serve to study the risk for reemergence of the disease.”

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  1. I really like this post for the fact that it shows the disease as a modern day worry. Although the books we have read set the different plagues at times in the past, it should not be forgotten that diseases such as bubonic plague are still present. We only normally hear of single cases every so often in America, but in certain undeveloped parts of the world, outbreaks are still common. Then, if we turn to cholera from Death in Venice, there is a danger of the illness wherever clean water is not available. My dad works in vaccine production and his main projects are based around bubonic plague – it is interesting to see how we react to it today and how people reacted back then. Maybe, in some parts of the world, we are just as naive to these epidemics as those characters from the past!

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