A Fort Collins, Colorado, high school athlete died from the rare septicemic plague the day after he turned 16.
Taylor Thomas Gaes was a sophomore at Poudre High School. He was a pitcher for the baseball team and the football team’s quarterback. With his 6-foot-4, 210-pound frame, he reportedly had the potential for a “brilliant sports career.”
"We often talk about Taylor's potential as an athlete, but he was much more than that," Poudre Varsity Baseball Coach Russell Haigh said. "He was a good friend to all of our players. He was a special young man."
Gaes died on June 8 of septicemic plague, a fast-moving form of the bacterial infection, according to Larimer County Department of Health and Environment spokesperson Katie O’Donnell, The Denver Post reports.
Haigh says that one week before Gaes’ death, he was in superb health.
Gaes showed flu-like symptoms on a Thursday and died four days later.
Septicemic plague is the most life-threatening form of the infection. It “goes straight into the blood,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell said Gaes did not show the typical symptom of the plague — swollen lymph nodes — but instead had muscle aches and pains, reports The Daily Mail. For this reason, authorities were not made aware of the danger of the infection sooner.
Seven people contract the plague in the U.S. each year, and it had not been confirmed in Gaes’ home county of Larimer since 1999.
It is believed that Gaes contracted the illness from a flea bite or through contact with a dead animal on his family’s rural property.
Gaes’ family chose to release his name so those who attended his memorial service at their home would be aware of the risk and seek medical attention if they develop flu-like symptoms.
O’Donnell thinks the likelihood of any of the hundreds of people who attended Gaes’ memorial falling ill is very low.
“They had this big ceremony that a few hundred people attended,” O’Donnell said. "They would hate to see people get sick from it. There's a very slim chance that anyone would.”
Photo Credit: The Daily Mail