The 13-year-old daughter of the president of St. John's College in Annapolis died Tuesday in South Carolina of what doctors there tentatively diagnosed as bubonic plague, a disease not commonly seen in the United States.
Donna Marie Delattre, daughter of Alice and Edwin J. Delattre, was rushed Monday night to Greenville General Hospital in western South Carolina where she had been visiting grandparents. She died less than 24 hours later.
Hospital doctor David Irvine said preliminary tests indicate she died of bubonic plague possibly contracted several days earlier in New Mexico.
If further tests confirm the diagnosis, "it will be the only case in recorded history of bubonic plague in South Carolina," Irvine said.
He said there is a greater incidence of the disease in the Far West, where wild rabbits transmit infected fleas to domestic animals. He said he understood Donna Delattre had a dog, horse and pet chipmunk in Santa Fe and may have contracted the disease from one of them. The Delattre family lived last year in Santa Fe, where St. John's College has a second campus. They were moving back to Annapolis when Donna became ill.
New Mexico health officials said there have been 18 reported cases in the state so far this year and one death. The Cecil Textbook of Medicine says an average of only 7.4 cases of the disease--characterized by high fever and severely swollen lymph glands--were reported each year in the United States during the 1970s.
Donna Delattre attended the Brunn School in Santa Fe last year where she participated in cross-country and soccer. From 1980 to 1982, she attended the Key School in Annapolis. Survivors include her parents and a sister, Winifred Lee, all of Annapolis.