A Crook County teen is in the intensive care unit (ICU) where she is recovering after having contracted the bubonic plague, according to the Crook County Public Health Department and the Oregon Health Authority.
The teenage girl — who was hospitalized in Bend, Oregon last Saturday — began to feel sick on October 21, 2015.
Health officials believe that she contracted the plague from a flea, which was infected with the bacteria, while she was on a hunting trip in Oregon’s Morrow County.
Fleas become infected with the bacteria by feeding on infected rodents such as squirrels, chipmunks and rats.
There have been only eight humans diagnosed with the plague in the state of Oregon since 1995.
CNN reports that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and state health officials are working together along with local health officials across nearby counties to investigate the recently reported case of the plague.
While none of the eight human cases of the plague in Oregon since the mid ’90s have resulted in deaths, the CDC reports that four of the fifteen plague cases reported across the nation this year have resulted in fatalities.
Oregon state public health veterinarian Emilio DeBess, DVM, noted in an Oregon Health Authority news release confirming the Crook County teen’s infection that while lots of folks think that the disease is a thing of the past, “it’s still very much present in our environment, particularly among wildlife.”
While the disease remains a rare one in present times, DeBess stresses that “people need to take appropriate precautions with wildlife and their pets” in order to ensure that the disease remains just that – rare.
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.
In order to help prevent the spread of the plague amongst humans, DeBuss recommends folks refrain from contact with wild rodents and to ensure that their pets are protected from fleas and kept out of contact with wild animals.
Contrary to popular belief, new research published earlier this year suggests that the bubonic plague may have actually been spread by something other than rats during the dark years of the Black Death, which took place between 1347 and 1353.