Plague kills Grand Canyon biologist

Oct. 22, 2008 at 12:35 AM
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FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Epidemic specialists say a Grand Canyon National Park biologist who died last year caught the plague from a mountain lion.

Eric York was exposed to pneumonic plague last October when he conducted an autopsy on a female mountain lion who died in the park, USA Today reported Tuesday. The disease is actually endemic west of the Mississippi River. It was brought to the western United States in the 1800s by flea-infested rats on ships from China, the newspaper noted.

David Wong, a National Park Service epidemiologist, said an investigation following York's death found only 49 people who had come in contact with York. All were successfully treated with antibiotics.

Wong said the Park Service is working with the the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify diseases within the park system that might pose a risk to the millions of people who visit the sites each year.

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