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Colorado Plague Victim: 16-Year-Old Dies From Rare Strain of Illness

By    |   Tuesday, 23 Jun 2015 09:23 AM

Colorado claimed a plague victim earlier this month when a 16-year-old star athlete was diagnosed with a rare strain of the illness, cutting short a promising sports career.

Taylor Thomas Gaes, a star pitcher and quarterback at Poudre High School in Fort Collins, Colorado, died June 8 of septicemic plague just a day after he turned 16, Larimer County Health Department spokeswoman Katie O'Donnell told the Denver Post.

Gaes reportedly developed flu-like symptoms June 4 and was quickly infected with the bacterial infection. He died four days later, O'Donnell said. The last time there was a case of septicemic plague in Larimer County was 1999 and there are only seven diagnosed cases per year in the U.S.

The plague is spread through rodents in a localized area and was found earlier this year in a remote part of Soapstone Prairie Natural Area that was not open to the public, according to The Coloradoan. The newspaper said one of the main signs of a plague are sweeping animal "die-offs."

Larimer County officials are advising residents to stay away from dead rodents and to wear flea repellent, but added that people should not be afraid to be outdoors.

"To get the plague, you have to be in the right place at right time when the infected flea is looking for a new host," O'Donnell told The Coloradoan, noting that her department sent out an advisory at the request of Gaes' parents.

"The family was concerned that if anybody was sick that they would assume they had the flu or a bug," she said. "They wanted to make sure people went to the doctor, so not to have anymore deaths like Taylor's. It's one of those illnesses where you're going to show symptoms."

Robert Herriman, of Outbreak News Today, wrote that the septicemic plague "appears subsequent to untreated bubonic or pneumonic plague. It involves bloodstream dissemination to all areas of the body. Buboes do not occur. Symptoms are endotoxic shock and disseminated intravascular coagulation. Untreated septicemic plague is nearly always fatal."

While it's not clear exactly how Gaes contracted the disease, the Larimer County health department is continuing its investigation along with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colorado's health department, and the county coroner's office.

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Colorado claimed a plague victim earlier this month when a 16-year-old star athlete was diagnosed with a rare strain of the illness, cutting short a promising sports career.
colorado, plague, victim, taylor gaes, dies
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2015-23-23
Tuesday, 23 Jun 2015 09:23 AM
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