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Nobody Panic, but Fleas Carrying Bubonic Plague Have Turned Up in the US

Black plague — aka black death — is caused by bacteria that today can be treated with antibiotics. And while you may have thought it’s not a problem in the industrialized world, it’s very much alive in the American Southwest, Science Alert reports. Fleas are testing positive for the bacteria, and health officials are warning people to keep their pets from roaming in areas where the fleas have been found. Humans can be infected, too, and in fact two recent human cases were confirmed in New Mexico.

Plague has plagued animals and humans for centuries, although it doesn’t often pop up as a daily news topic — although it should, as the antibiotics used to treat it are quickly becoming extinct. A primary culprit for disappearing availability of antibiotics is the farming method known as confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), which rely heavily on antibiotics to keep their operations going.

The fact is, despite farmers and food producers pledging to reduce or stop antibiotics use, a new report finds that sales of antibiotics for use on farms are going up. In fact, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that 62 percent of all the antibiotics used in animals for food production are “medically important” for human health — and, in turn, scientists warn that using so many antibiotics can, and does, result in antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

With at least 2 million people in the U.S. contracting a bacterial infection that antibiotics can’t fix each year, and 23,000 dying as a direct result, it’s time to mandate a halt to all this heavy reliance on antibiotics in agriculture — before a new plague occurs that can’t be fought. Demand that restaurants and supermarkets commit to only selling meat raised without antibiotics or at least a minimal amount.

And do your part not only by using antibiotics responsibly, but also by rethinking where you buy your food. Choosing food that comes from farms that do not feed low-dose antibiotics in animal feed is crucial. Look for antibiotic-free alternatives raised by organic and regenerative farmers, and support local farmers markets, and local outlets or farmers who sell grass fed, free-ranging, organic meats.
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