Discuss as:

7-year-old bubonic plague survivor leaves hospital

A Colorado girl who survived the bubonic plague is happy to be out of the hospital. KUSA's Cheryl Preheim reports.

Seven-year-old Sierra Downing has been discharged from a Denver hospital, where she was recovering from a rare case of bubonic plague. The little girl from Pagosa Springs, Colo., was likely infected with the disease while visiting a campground in southwestern Colorado, after coming into contact with fleas from a dead squirrel. 

"We believe this is a miracle," says her mom, Darcy Downing. 

On Aug. 24, Sierra was taken to the hospital via a 400-mile emergency helicopter trip from Pagosa Springs to Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children in Denver. "First, I was really cold, and then I got hotter and hotter and hotter and hotter," Sierra remembers. She had a fever of 107, to be exact.

Now, after 17 days, the 2nd grader who has yet to attend a single day of school this year has left the hospital. 

Bubonic plague sounds like the stuff of the Middle Ages -- back then, the disease known as the Black Death killed an estimated 25 million people in Europe. Today, it's rare but not unheard of: An average of seven cases are reported each year in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While it's still a nasty, severe disease, it can be treated with antibiotics, which is what doctors did for Sierra. 

"You can't keep her down," says Sierra's dad, Sean Downing. "That's my Girl Scout right there." 


'Fortunate to be alive': Girl, 7, contracts bubonic plague at Colorado campground