Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 10th 2015 Contents A28
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Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, August 10, 2015
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The Telecommunications Authority of Trinidad and Tobago (the Authority) is inviting
proposals for consultancy Services for the design and implementation of an Enterprise
Wide Records Management Programme.
The word plague brings to mind the great scourge
of the Middle Ages that filled the streets and so-
called plague pits with the bodies of its victims.
But as recent news reports remind us, we cannot
entirely dispatch the plague to the annals of history.
Yersinia pestis, the same type of bacterium that was
responsible for the pandemic that wiped out 60 per
cent of the European population between the 14th
and 17th centuries, maintains a foothold in the United
States and around the globe in rodents and the fleas
that live on them.
Thankfully, however, today infections are treatable
with antibiotics if they are caught early enough. "The
tragedy in most cases is that people don t realise what
they have and think they have the flu," said Sharon
Collinge, professor of environmental studies at Uni-
versity of Colorado-Boulder.
The most recent case to make headlines is that of
Taylor Gaes, who died of the plague at the beginning
of June, a day before he would have turned 16. Officials
think that Gaes was infected through a flea bite on
his family s ranch in Larimer County, Colorado.
Since 1970, there have been anywhere from a few
to a few dozen cases of plague every year in the United
States, most of them occurring in Western states,
according to the Centers for Disease Control and Pre-
vention. Globally, Africa, South America and Asia
have the most plague cases, particularly Madagascar,
Peru and India. Hardest hit of all is the Democratic
Republic of Congo, which had more than 10,000 cases
from 2000 to 2009.
The bacterium infects a range of rodents, including
rats, prairie dogs and ground squirrels, as well as pets
such as cats and dogs. It is transmitted to people
through bites from fleas that were living on infected
animals, or in rare cases, directly from infected rodents
or pets to people. Although rats have long been con-
sidered the culprit for the largest plague epidemic in
history, the Black Death of the Middle Ages, a recent
study suggested that gerbils and their fleas, hitching
a ride on trade routes from China, were actually the
main vector of disease.
For reasons that are unknown, some people probably
recover from the infection without antibiotics. "It s
such an uncommon disease, I don t know if it s been
studied well enough to know if certain people have
increased susceptibility," such as older people or people
with chronic diseases, said Dr Michelle A Barron,
associate professor of infectious diseases at University
of Colorado Medical School.
In cases where the disease progresses, it can develop
into three different forms. The form that is synonymous
with plague itself, bubonic plague, is associated with
swollen and black-and-blue lymph nodes (the origin
of Black Death), usually near the site of the flea bite.
Bubonic is seen in about 80 per cent of cases in the
US, according to the CDC. The other two forms infect
the blood (septicemic) and lungs (pneumonic).
Although septicemic and pneumonic plague are
inevitably fatal if untreated, Barron said that most
patients with these forms can still make a full recovery
with antibiotics. Supportive care also plays a big part
in recovery and can include fluids for dehydration and
oxygen in cases of pneumonic plague, she added.
Unless a patient has the telltale swollen lymph nodes
of bubonic plague, it can be hard for the person to
know he or she has the plague. Symptoms are generally
similar to those of the flu: fever, chills, headache,
Why plague is more common in areas like the west-
ern US is among the mysteries that surround the
ancient scourge. The heat and aridity of these envi-
ronments, as well as the burrows dug by rodents such
as prairie dogs and ground squirrels that live out West,
probably create a particularly hospitable habitat in
which fleas flourish, said Collinge.
How do we still have the plague,
centuries after the Black Death?
When welder Paul Gaylord
went to help his sick cat
outside of his Prineville,
Oregon, home, he never
thought the effort would
leave him fighting for his life.
Even though the bacterium responsible for plague
still lurks in the environment, it leads to much less
death and disease than in past decades and centuries.
The most recent plague epidemic in the US, in Los
Angeles from 1924 to 1925, claimed about a dozen
Basic hygiene probably deserves the credit for the
low number of plague cases, Barron said. "I think
most of us would not tolerate having rodents in our
homes, and back when the plague occurred in Europe,
living conditions were just not that good," she said.
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
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