Lifestyle & Belief

Bubonic plague sufferer, Sierra Jane Downing, 7, released from Colorado hospital


A lab researcher died after working with rare bacteria in a VA medical center.



Sierra Jane Downing, a 7-year-old Colorado girl who contracted the bubonic plague during a camping trip, has been discharged from the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

Downing, of Pagosa Springs, shocked doctors who diagnosed her with the first human case of bubonic plague confirmed in Colorado since 2006, the Associated Press reported.

It is believed she was infected with the same bubonic plague that killed 25 million people in the Middle Ages — when it was called Black Death — when handling a dead squirrel on Aug. 19.

CBS 4 Denver reported that Downing put her sweatshirt near or on the decomposing animal and later tied the shirt around her waist.

After she had a seizure, her father took her to Pagosa Springslate on Aug. 24 with a 107-degree fever.

She was then airlifted to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

"I thought, 'oh my gosh we're going to lose her.' I was very concerned," Darcy Downing, Sierra Jane's mother told ABC News

ABC quoted one of the doctors who treated Downing as saying: "I remember leaving that morning very scared that when I came back that night she wasn't going to survive." 

Having noticed bug bites around Downing's torso, doctors suspect fleas jumped from the squirrel to her.

CBS quoted pediatric specialist Dr. Jennifer Snow as saying: "That was my 'Aha' moment. Could this be ursinia or bubonic plague."

Doctors started Downing on a course of gentamicin, an antibiotic used to treat bacterial infections and she began to recover. 

She had even taken her first steps, ABC reported.

“They set her on my lap and she just melted into me and she said, ‘Mommy, it feels so good to be held,’” Darcy Downing told ABC News. “That was the best moment. The best.”

More from GlobalPost: Bubonic plague: Colorado girl contracts the Black Death during camping trip