In a stunning turn of events, a star baseball player at Poudre High School in Larimer, Colo. died after being inflicted with the plague, not the flu, as had been previously believed.
The announcement of the cause of Taylor Gaes’ death came Sunday from the Larimer County Health Department, which released a statement regarding a long-term investigation in the 16-year-old’s death. According to Larimer county health department spokesperson Katie O’Donnell, Gaes likely contracted the plague when he was bitten by, ” fleas on a dead rodent or other animal on the family acreage.
“It’s very, very rare.”
How rare was Gaes’ death just one day after his 16th birthday? It’s just the third case in Northwest Colorado in the past 30 years. The form of plague that he contracted is not communicable between humans, and only others who were bitten by the same infected fleas could be at additional risk.
Gaes was both a starting pitcher and first baseman for Poudre High and was expected to emerge as one of the program’s primary leaders on the field in the forthcoming pair of seasons.
“We often talk about Taylor’s potential as an athlete, but he was much more than that,” Poudre varsity baseball coach Russell Haigh told the Denver Post. “He was a good friend to all of our players. He was a special young man.”
Meanwhile, concern has shifted to those who attended a memorial service for Gaes just days after he was bitten himself. It is believed that Gaes was bit by an infected flea just four days before his death, meaning that those who attended his service could potentially have been in the same vicinity with infected fleas.
“It’s a pretty far reach, but it’s possible,” O’Donnell told the Los Angeles Times.