In a tale that will soon pass into Mom Urban Legend, a 7-year-old girl in Colorado, a 7-year-old girl not so very different from you, in fact, in a Colorado much like your own state, played near a dead squirrel after her mom told her to leave it alone. And do you know what happened to that little girl?


ABC News reports that Sierra Jane Downing discovered a half-eaten squirrel while on a picnic with her family in scenic Pagosa Springs, where the ground is littered with half-eaten squirrels.

An animal lover and stickler for proper observance of funereal rites, Sierra Jane asked her parents if she might hold a small private burial for the animal. Mom said no, "stay away from it."

A little while later, while carrying on in a creek with her sister, Sierra Jane snuck back to the carrion and placed her sweatshirt down beside it. Then she picked up the sweatshirt and tied it around her waist. Then she went home.

Five days later, Sierra Jane was stricken by vomiting. She had a fever. She had a seizure.

Her parents took her to the hospital, where the first round of tests can best be summed up with this fantastic quote from ABC News:

Sierra Jane's clear chest X-ray and only slightly elevated white blood cell count offered local doctors no clue that Sierra Jane had contracted the disease that wiped out one-third of Europe's population in the 14th century.

Two days later, Sierra Jane was in a children's hospital in Denver being treated for septic shock.

A pediatric critical care specialist re-interviewed the family to find out what kinds of things Sierra Jane might have been exposed to.

Apparently, all of Sierra Jane's best friends are deceased animals and their droppings: in addition to the squirrel tale, her mom told doctors Sierra Jane had also recently been exposed to 1) a dead skunk and 2) some mouse feces in chicken coops.

The Plague is usually transmitted through the bites of infected fleas (doctors found some bites around Sierra Jane's waist, where she'd tied the sweatshirt), but can also be contracted simply from direct contact with infected animals.

After learning about Sierra Jane's macabre interests, doctors finally realized what was wrong.

Just a little case of the Black Death.

They gave her some new antibiotics and she's doing fine now. Could be home by the end of the week.

No big deal, Black Death, whatever.

[ABC News via Newser // Image via Schizoform/flickr]