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Dr. Kenneth Gage Dr. Kenneth Gage

My favorite science experience happened while working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I was traveling to a remote village in the Andes Mountains of Peru. An outbreak of plague was occurring in the village. Plague is a rare but dangerous disease that can be fatal if not quickly treated with the right medicines. Humans can get the disease when they are bitten by infected fleas or handle infected animals. In the village, some people had become sick after handling infected animals. Others had become ill after being bitten by infected fleas found in their homes or fields. The village could not be reached by road. My Peruvian colleagues and I had to ride mules up a very narrow trail that often passed by steep slopes and cliffs. In addition to riding mules, we also used seven small donkeys to carry the equipment and supplies needed to control the outbreak. At one point, a rope used to tie some of the equipment to one of the donkeys broke. This caused the donkey to begin kicking. As it kicked, the equipment bounced up and down, making loud noises that frightened the mules and donkeys and caused them to begin braying loudly. At the same time, my mule started to buck, causing the stirrup on my saddle to break off. At that point, I was barely holding on and thought I was going to be bucked off my mule and over a cliff. Fortunately, I was able to hang on and made it safely to the village. The people there treated us kindly and greatly supported our work, making this trip a memorable and rewarding experience. In this photo, I am investigating a case of human plague.