Plague in USA and DRC

20 July 2021

Article: 55/2903

According to media reports, public health officials in Colorado, USA, have reported the death of a ten-year-old child from plague in the Durango area in early July 2021. This is the first death from plague in Colorado since 2015, however, the disease is known to be present in wildlife within the state.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports a continuing outbreak of plague in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). From 22 April to 13 June 2021, 37 suspected pneumonic plague cases, including 12 deaths, were recorded in Fataki health zone, Ituri province. Plague is endemic in Ituri province, but has not been seen in Fataki health zone for more than ten years. Plague also continues to be recorded in other parts of Ituri province this year.

Plague is a severe bacterial infection which spreads to humans mainly by the bite of infected fleas, or from close contact with infected animals.

Advice for travellers

Plague is rare in international travellers, with the risk highest in those who come into close contact with local wildlife, particularly rats or other rodents.

Travellers should be advised to: 

  • practice good insect bite avoidance 
  • avoid close contact with sick or dead animals 
  • avoid crowded areas in regions where pneumonic plague has recently been reported 
  • seek prompt medical attention if they develop symptoms and there is a risk they may have been exposed to plague

Further information and advice on plague is available on the TRAVAX website (for health professionals).

Sources: TRAVAX, 12 July 2021 and TRAVAX, 15 July 2021