According to Reuters, the Enterobacteria Yersinia Pestis, better known as the Bubonic Plague, is responsible for the death of an eight year old Denver zoo monkey. The bacteria Yersinia Pestis has long haunted mankind and was most notably responsible for killing 1/3 the population of Europe during medieval times. Bubonic plague has sprung up sporadically over the years, most recently at the Denver Zoo.
According to Reuters, Denver Zoo personnel noticed that the Monkey was lethargic on May 15th; the monkey died the next day. Zoo officials announced the monkey’s death on Monday, after samples of the monkey’s tissues sent to a lab proved the animal died of Bubonic plague. Officials believe that the monkey contracted the bacteria when it ate an infected squirrel. Five dead squirrels and a rabbit found on zoo grounds all tested positive for the bacteria.
Zoo officials reassured the public that the transmission of the bacteria from infected animals to humans was very low but also advised the zoo’s visitors to avoid squirrels and rabbits. No other zoo animals have become sick. The zoo has been proactive by moving the rest of the monkeys to a different enclosure and treating them with a preventative round of antibiotics. Officials only concern is that some of the animals may become infected. According to Reuters John Pape, an epidemiologist with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had this to say about the situation: “There are species in the zoo collection, especially monkeys, that could be susceptible to the plague.”
Yersinia Pestis bacteria is carried by fleas that tend to infest rats and mice. Due to their proximity to rats and mice before modern means of sanitation were in use humankind suffered many outbreaks of plague; millions died. Plague infection in humans is rare now and if caught early is quite treatable with antibiotics. Scientists believe that a mixture of better sanitation and increasing genetic resistance is responsible for the decrease of human cases of Plague.
Though plague infection in humans is now rare and the zoo has not felt the need to close Monday’s announcement is a chilling reminder that the diseases of old never really leave us. It is difficult not to think of the nursery song “Ring around the Rosie” the chilling tale of plague victims in the guise of a children’s song when any creature dies from the bacteria that once ravaged our kind with a 90% fatality rate.
Monkey Dead From Bubonic Plague in Denver