The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) announced on September 15, 2021, the detection of a rare but severe case of pneumonic plague in a northern Fremont County resident.
This human plague case is the 7th thought to be acquired in Wyoming since 1978.
Other recorded Wyoming cases include a 1978 out-of-state case acquired in Washakie County, a 1982 Laramie County case, a 1992 Sheridan County case that resulted in death, a 2000 Washakie County case, a 2004 out-of-state case acquired in Goshen County, and a 2008 out-of-state case caught in Teton County.
Dr. Alexia Harrist, the WDH epidemiologist, stated in a press statement, 'while the risk for humans to contract plague is very low in Wyoming, the disease has been documented throughout the state in domestic and wild animals.'
“It’s safe to assume that the risk for plague exists all around our state,” Dr. Harrist added.
“While the disease is rare in humans, it is important for people to take precautions to reduce exposure and to seek prompt medical care if symptoms consistent with plague develop.”
According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, 30 cases of pneumonic plague were reported in the Republic of Madagascar on September 10, 2021.
The plague was first introduced into the United States in 1900 by rat-infested steamships that had sailed from affected areas, mainly from Asia, says the U.S. CDC.
The last urban plague epidemic in the United States occurred in Los Angeles from 1924 through 1925.
Pneumonic plague is the most severe form and is the only form that can be spread from person to person. Pneumonic plague can develop from inhaling infectious droplets or may develop from an untreated bubonic or septicemic plague, says the CDC.
A plague vaccine is no longer available in the United States.
However, U.S. FDA inventors confirmed in October 2020 they developed a candidate oral vaccine against plague.
This vaccine consists of a synthetic gene construct that expresses a Y. pestis F1-V fusion antigen linked to a secretion signal, resulting in large amounts of the F1-V antigen. The F1-V synthetic gene fusion is cloned within Ty21a, an attenuated typhoid fever strain licensed for human use as a live oral bacterial vaccine.