Health officials have confirmed that a teenage girl in Crook County, Oregon has contracted the bubonic plague on October 30, 2015.
The Oregon teen had become ill shortly after her hunting trip that started October 16, 2015 and has been hospitalized in Bend, Oregon since October 24, 2015. Health officials believe she contracted the bubonic plague from an infectious flea during her trip near Heppner in Morrow County, located in north-central Oregon.
The plague is an infectious bacterial disease most commonly found in rural areas in the west such as New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. According to the Center of Disease Control, roughly seven cases are reported nationwide each year. It is very rare for the plague to be found in Oregon; only eight cases have been diagnosed since 1995 with no resulting deaths. Humans usually contract the disease through infected fleas that have caught it from feeding on infected rodents such as rats, squirrels, and chipmunks.
This disease is also known as the Black Death because of the later symptoms of blackened sores that occurred during the 14th century. The Black Death killed tens of millions of people during the 14th century in Europe, Asia, and Africa. It is estimated that the plague killed 25 to 60 percent of Europe’s population.
“Many people think of the plague as a disease of the past, but it’s still very much present in our environment, particularly among wildlife. Fortunately, plague remains a rare disease, but people need to take appropriate precautions with wildlife and their pets to keep it that way.” -Emilio DeBess, Oregon public health veterinarian.
Most people begin to experience symptoms two to six days after being infected. Those symptoms include: sudden fever, headache, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and painfully swollen lymph nodes. When it is caught early, it can be successfully treated with antibiotics; but “without prompt treatment, the disease can cause serious illness or death” (CDC).