‘Black Death’ plague strikes after Oregon man saves mouse from cat

German artwork by Michael Wolgemut depicting the "Black Death" circa 1493.

The infamous medieval-era “Black Death” plague that wiped out a third of Europe in the 1300s has potentially made a rare return in Oregon.

According to Oregon health officials, an unidentified man in his 50s may have contracted the illness on June 2 while trying to save a mouse from a stray cat. He pried the cat’s mouth open to release the mouse and was bit in the process, though officials aren’t sure which animal nipped him, according to the Oregonian.

The man became critically ill as the bacteria spread through his bloodstream. He suffered typical plague including stomach pain, bleeding mouth, nose and anus and dying tissue.

Though health officials estimate between 10 and 15 people in the U.S. catch the plague each year, the Oregon man is only the fifth person to contract the disease since 1995. The bacteria that causes the plague is often found in rat-borne fleas. People can contract the illness by coming into contact with rodents or other animals.

Unlike the vicious outbreak that took place in the 1300s, antibiotics now exist to treat the plague, though the Center for Diesease Control says one in seven cases can still be fatal.



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