U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Integrative Zoology 2012; 7: 99–109; doi: 10.1111/j.1749-4877.2011.00277.x


Plague is a zoonotic disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis Lehmann and Neumann, 1896. Although it is essentially a disease of rodents, plague can also be transmitted to people. Historically, plague has caused massive morbidity and mortality events in human populations, and has recently been classified as a reemerging disease in many parts of the world. This public health threat has led many countries to set up wild and domestic animal surveillance programs in an attempt to monitor plague activity that could potentially spill over into human populations. Both China and the USA have plague surveillance programs in place, but the disease dynamics differ in each country. We present data on plague seroprevalence in wildlife and review different approaches for plague surveillance in the 2 countries. The need to better comprehend plague dynamics, combined with the fact that there are still several thousand human plague cases per year, make well-designed wildlife surveillance programs a critical part of both understanding plague risks to humans and preventing disease outbreaks in the future.