The death of a 14-year-old boy with Down syndrome on July 26 signals a fresh outbreak of bubonic plague in Peru, Minister of Health Oscar Ugarte revealed this week. A total of 33 cases have been linked to the disease, which so far has been limited to the northern province of Ascope.
Bubonic plague is spread by rats and other rodents, which are abundant in sugar cane plantations where, according to the health ministry, the newest epidemic started. The disease itself is transmitted by flea bites. Doctors working with the U.S. Naval Medical Research Center Detachment have also identified four cases of pneumonic plague, which can be transmitted through the air.
The government has shipped six metric tons of Carbaryl, an insecticide, to the region to head off the disease’s continued spread. It is also fumigating homes and ports in the region, and blocking shipments from the north to Lima. The last time an epidemic of the plague swept through Peru, in 1994, 1,104 people were infected and 35 died.