An Oregon man is in critical condition after being infected with the “Black Death” plague. He became ill with the plague when he was bitten on the hand by a stray cat while trying to remove a mouse from the cat’s mouth.
The man lives in rural Crook County and was bitten Saturday, June 2. He then developed a fever a few days later, but by Friday, June 8, he checked himself into St. Charles Medical Center-Redmond because he was so ill. He was later transferred to the larger facility in Bend.
Karen Yeargain, communicable disease coordinator with Crook County Health Department said, “Lab tests are being done to confirm whether the man has the plague, but he is suffering from classic symptoms.”
It’s unclear whether the cat or mouse were infected with the plague, but the stray cat has since died, and is now sent to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention for testing. Also, the dozen or more people that were in contact with the unidentified man are receiving preventive antibiotics.
An illness that’s usually associated with the Middle Ages is in fact, still around. On average, 10 to 20 people are diagnosed with the plague each year in the U.S., with reports of 1,000 to 3,000 cases a year worldwide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the plague is transmitted by fleas that are infected with the Yersinia pestis bacteria, people often get black plague through a bite.
It can develop into three forms: bubonic plague, which swells lymph nodes across the body; septicemic plague; and pneumonic plague, which affects the lungs. Symptoms of the plague include a swollen lymph gland known as a “bubo,” fever, chills, headache, and extreme exhaustion. The illness usually occurs two to six days after infection.
Emilio DeBess, Oregon’s public health veterinarian said, “This can be a serious illness. But it is treatable with antibiotics, and it’s preventable.”
Plague Confirmed in Oregon Man
Health officials have confirmed that an Oregon man has the plague after he was bitten while trying to take a dead rodent from the mouth of a stray cat.