A Connecticut teenager who was among other Boy Scouts doing service projects in the Teton area this summer contracted the bubonic plague, health officials say.
The Wyoming Health Department released information Monday that said the teenager spent time in Yellowstone National Park, Bridger-Teton National Forest and other sites within Teton County between July 26 and Aug. 3.
He became ill the second week of August and spent the next week in a hospital, where he was diagnosed with the disease, said Randall Nelson, state veterinarian for the Connecticut Department of Public Health. His symptoms were fever, malaise and a large swelling on the left side of his neck in the lymph node and parotid gland, he said. He was treated with antibiotics and has recovered fully, he said.
The male teenager’s name will not be released because of Connecticut law, Nelson said. He had traveled with other people and no one else became sick, Nelson said.
The two state health departments are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track the source of the disease.
“We’re still working with the Wyoming State Health Department and the CDC to retrace the steps of the teenager,” Nelson said.
Bubonic plague can occur after a person is bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the plague bacterium or by handling an infected animal, according to the CDC.
State health officials said this is the sixth human case of plague thought to be acquired in Wyoming since 1978. The most recent case was reported in Goshen County in 2004.
Human risk to contract the plague is low in Wyoming, said Dr. Karl Musgrave, state public health veterinarian. The state has recorded the disease in animals in 22 of Wyoming’s 23 counties since records have been kept, including mountain lions in the Jackson Hole area.State health officials said they are looking for fleas and animal carcasses in areas where the teenager may have been.
“At this time, the exact location where the exposure to the disease occurred is not known and it is likely we will never determine that level of detail,” said Dr. Tracy Murphy, state epidemiologist with the Wyoming Department of Health.
As part of the testing, CDC teams flag rodent holes. The fleas that are captured are then tested for the plague, said Mary Cernicek, spokeswoman for Bridger-Teton National Forest. She said the teenager was with a group that camped on an elk feedground and had stayed in Grant Village at one point.
Boy Scouts of America national spokesman Deron Smith said the organization is working with the CDC and was unaware of any other illnesses.
About 1,100 Scouts and adults helped with service projects this summer. They built several miles of trails along Teton Pass and removed several miles of fence in the Gros Ventre region, among other projects.