Skip to main content
CNN Europe CNN Asia
On CNN TV Transcripts Headline News CNN International About Preferences
powered by Yahoo!

Bubonic plague suspected in NYC visitors

   Story Tools


  • What: Potentially fatal disease caused by bacterium Yersinia pestis.
  • How contracted: Bite from rodent flea carrying the plague bacterium.
  • Symptoms: Swollen, tender lymph nodes (swollen gland called a bubo -- hence bubonic plague). Fever. Chills. Extreme exhaustion.
  • Incidence: Ten to 20 persons a year infected in rural areas of Western United States. Globally, 1,000 to 3,000 cases a year.
  • Treatment: Antibiotics. If not treated promptly can cause death. About 14 percent of all U.S. plague cases are fatal.
  • Place in history: Millions of Europeans died in the Middle Ages when flea-infested rats inhabited homes and workplaces.

    Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • NEW YORK (CNN) -- A New Mexico couple who traveled to New York have been hospitalized with what is believed to be the first case of bubonic plague in the city in a century, said health officials.

    The couple arrived in the city last Friday and went to the hospital two days later with high fever and swollen lymph nodes. The man, 53, is in critical condition and on life support at a Manhattan hospital; his 47-year-old wife is in stable condition, said officials. Both are in isolation at the hospital.

    "Today, we are announcing what are likely to be the first cases of bubonic plague in New York City in 100 years," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, the health commissioner of New York City.

    Tests on the man were "presumptive positive" for the plague, and his wife is suffering from similar symptoms, with tests pending, he said. It could be as long as 48 hours before health officials get official confirmation that the two have the plague, he said.

    Frieden cautioned New Yorkers not to be alarmed by the news. Bubonic plague "does not spread from person to person," he said.

    "There is no risk to New Yorkers from the two individuals who are being evaluated for plague," Frieden said. "These patients became ill within 48 hours of arriving in New York City. Therefore, we are confident that their exposure occurred in New Mexico."

    More than half of the plague cases in the United States are in New Mexico, Frieden said. A wood rat and fleas from the rodent that were found on the couple's property in Santa Fe, New Mexico, tested positive in July for plague, Frieden said.

    Bubonic plague is a bacterial disease in rodents transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas. Pneumonic plague, a more serious form of the disease, occurs when plague bacteria are inhaled after direct contact with infected animals, including rodents, wildlife and pets.

    Story Tools
    Subscribe to Time for $1.99 cover
    Top Stories
    Candy makers target fitness market
    Top Stories
    CNN/Money: Security alert issued for 40 million credit cards
    © 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
    A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
    Terms under which this service is provided to you.
    Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
    external link
    All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.