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Time to break out the giant bird masks: the plague has hit Arizona


Time to break out the giant bird masks -- the plague is back.

Well, if you live in Arizona, at least.

Officials in two Arizona counties have issued a public health warning, noting that fleas in the area have tested positive for the disease. Navajo County and Coconino County are both located in the northern part of the state.

A public health warning stated, "Navajo County Health Department is urging the public to take precautions to reduce their risk of exposure to this serious disease, which can be present in fleas, rodents, rabbits and predators that feed upon these animals. The disease can be transmitted to humans and other animals by the bite of an infected flea or by direct contact with an infected animal."

The plague first rose to infamy during the Middle Ages. Also known as the black death or bubonic plague, it killed 30-60 percent of Europe’s population. It’s characterized with a sudden onset of fever, headache, chills, and weakness and one or more swollen, tender and painful lymph nodes (called buboes), according to the Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) description of symptoms.

Not to worry, however -- these days, the plague is treatable with antibiotics. And this plague may not be Arizona’s first. The CDC reports finding that the southwestern United States has had outbreaks of the plague before. It commonly pops up after wet winters followed by cooler summers.

Even if modern antibiotics are effective, prevention is always the best cure- maybe try and stay away from rats and other creepy crawlies in Arizona.

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