Scientists Create A New Tool That Can Identify Areas At High Risk Of Plague

Posted: Dec 31 2015, 8:25am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Scientists Creat a Tool that Can Predict Areas at High Risk of Plague
Dark red spots predict the areas where plague can occur. Credit: SUNY Downstate Medical Center

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Potential hotspots of the plague have been identified in the Western United States.

The disease of the plague is still alive in the modern world and a significant uptick has been observed in the Western United States. That is what researchers have found when they used a new predicitive tool to see the potential plague affected areas in the near future.

Scientists at SUNY Downstate Medical Center have created a map to identify the hotspots for plague bacteria and the map can also predict the high probability areas ofan outbreak.

“The study used surveillance data of plague in wild and domestic animals in the American West to identify and map those areas with the greatest potential for human exposure to this infection, which can be particularly deadly when transmitted to humans.” Michael Walsh, one of the researchers involved in the study said.

The presence of the plague in the Western US is not a huge surprise since the region has the highest concentrations of plague-carrying animals in the world, which are mostly rodents and fleas.

For predicting the potential outbreak of the plague across the Western US, researchers have mapped the areas at high risk. They used an algorithm that considers various factors like climate, altitude and land cover to predict where the plague can spread.

“This model demonstrated good predictive ability and identified areas of high risk in central Colorado, north-central New Mexico, and southwestern and northeastern California.” Report reads.

Bubonic plague, that killed millions of people in Europe during the Middle Ages, was first introduced into United States in 1900. The infection was carried by steamships that sailed from the affected areas. Since then the plague is occurring in scattered areas such as Northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, Southern Oregon and far western Nevada.

Most plague cases are happening in those areas that have large populations of deer, mice, wet climate and human made roads and buildings.

According to the CDC, an average of seven human plague cases has been reported each year in recent decades and it can infect people of all age groups. Researchers are hoping that the model will help local health departments to identify potential hotspots and to prevent the spread of the disease.

Study co-author Michael Walsh said."The findings can be used by public health agencies to target specific areas for enhanced plague surveillance within areas and counties predicted to be at high risk, as well as by other research teams to direct the sampling of local wildlife populations for the identification of Yersinia pestis in wild animals that find themselves in close proximity to humans and human developed landscapes.”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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