An Oregon resident has been diagnosed with a disease that ran roughshod across Europe and has claimed upwards of 50 million lives.

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Last week a person in Deschutes County, in Central Oregon, was diagnosed with the Bubonic Plague, commonly referred to as the 'Black Death'.  The plague, known at that time as the Plague of Justinian, raged through Europe during the sixth century killing an estimated 25 million people.

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In the Middle Ages it decimated one-third of Europe's population with an 80 percent mortality rate.  The plague had no cure and was a worldwide threat into the 19th Century.

How Can You Get The Bubonic Plague?

It actually easier than you think even though cases are more sparse in the present day.  The plague is transmitted from the bite of fleas infected with the Yersinia pestis (Y. pestis) bacterium.  The cause of the Middle Ages plague was believed to be infected fleas catching a ride on rats.

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In the case of the Deschutes County resident, it is believed their cat was exposed to infected fleas.  The danger comes in where you do not need to be bitten or scratched by an infected animal, it can transmit through secretion and expulsion of fluids.

If an infected animal sneezes, you can contract the disease if you are in proximity.  This isn't the first time Oregon has dealt with the plague, but it is the first in eight years.  Between 1970 and 2020, Oregon saw nineteen cases, fifth most nationwide.  In that same span Washington State had one case.

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What Do I Need to Worry About?

The plague affects your lymph nodes which are the body's defenders against infection and illness.  The Bubonic plague can develop into Pneumonic Plague and, less frequently, Septicaemic Plague.

If caught in time the plague can be treated and resolved with antibiotics.  The Deschutes County resident is expected to survive as a regiment of antibiotics was administered.  If not caught in time. it can be fatal with Pneumonic plague taking less than a day to claim it's victim.

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Prevention

Make your your pets are free of fleas, and be diligent if you are in an area where fleas are an issue.  While the disease spread easier to humans from cats, there have been a few cases where it has been spread through dogs.  Annually the U.S sees roughly seven cases of Bubonic Plague.

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