23 June 2010

Beware the Squirrel Plague!

As far as I know, Tulare county may be the only place in California worthy enough to have an infectious disease named after it:
[A] case appeared in Los Angeles, which proved the direct communicability of [an] infection from squirrel to man without the intervention of fleas or biting insects. A boy ten years old, living in Los Angeles, found a sick ground squirrel near his home. Being moved with compassion, and thinking he would take it home, nurse it and make a pet of it, he picked it up, but the animal bit him on the finger. On the fourth day after, he was taken very sick with fever, delirium, etc.... it is beyond question that this boy was directly infected from the bite of the squirrel and not from flea bites. ... 
It was then thought by many that squirrel-plague and bubonic plague were one and the same disease. This, however, proved untrue... there [being] a distinct difference between true bubonic plague and squirrel plague, the latter being less violent and the bacillus causing it being different from the true Bacillus pestis...
Finally, in 1911 (see Journal of Infectious Diseases, 1912, page 71), McCoy and Chapin identified the germ of squirrel-plague...described it fully and named it "Bacillus tularense", after the county of Tulare, in California, in which the disease was first observed.

From: The Opthalmic Record, Vol. XXIII, 1914, pp. 489-490.

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