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Colorado girl recovers after being stricken with bubonic plague

A 7-year-old girl, who suffered a bubonic plague infection has been released from the hospital.

On Aug. 24, Sierra Jane Downing, of Pagosa Springs, Colo., was rushed to the emergency room suffering from severe flu-like symptoms. Doctors became concerned as the little girl was not responding to treatment and her condition grew worse.

Racked by a terrible seizure, a 107-degree temperature and now unable to even stand, little Sierra was slowly and painfully slipping away. Doctors frantically consulted with each other in a desperate attempt to pin down the cause of her illness. Subsequently, she was flown to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver, Colo., where doctors began a thorough and painstaking investigation into Sierra's case.

After careful evaluation it was determined that little Sierra had contracted bubonic plague.

Bubonic plague, also called "the black death" or simply "the plague" was once responsible for the deaths of more than 20 million people during the 14th century.

The ancient disease which is caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis or Y. pestis, presents itself in three forms; bubonic plague which attacks the lymph nodes, septicemic plague which infects the blood and the vastly more deadly and highly infectious pneumonic plague. Pneumonic plague is perhaps the deadliest form of the disease because it attacks the lungs and can easily be spread by the coughs and sneezes of an infected person.

Fortunately for Sierra, her infection was quickly diagnosed and antibiotic treatment began immediately. She was released from the hospital on Monday and expected to make a complete recovery.

There have been no infections from the disease in Colorado since 2006.

"Between 1900 and 2010, 999 confirmed or probable human plague cases occurred in the United States. Over 80% of United States plague cases have been the bubonic form. In recent decades, an average of seven human plague cases have been reported each year (range: 1–17 cases per year) . Plague has occurred in people of all ages (infants up to age 96), though 50% of cases occur in people ages 12–45," according to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.