According to the Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division and the Crook County Public Health Department, a 16-year-old Crook County girl contracted bubonic plague from a flea bite on October 16.
The girl was on a hunting trip near Heppner when she was bitten, and she became ill on October 21. She was admitted to the intensive care unit of a Bend, OR, hospital. Her condition is unknown.
Oregon Health Authority spokesman Jonathan Modie said the girl was the only person in Crook County with the disease. Epidemiologists with Oregon Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have joined officials in the Crook, Deschutes, and Morrow County health departments to launch an investigation.
Oregon public health veterinarian Emilio DeBess explained:
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.
The CDC states that bubonic plague is transmitted to humans by rodents and their fleas. Once discovered, it can be ameliorated with antibiotics if they are given soon enough. Eight cases of bubonic plague have been reported in Oregon since 1995 with no reported deaths.
Symptoms usually arise within four days of exposure to the disease. “Early symptoms of plague include high fever, chills, nausea, weakness and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin,” according to Reuters.
The CDC states that an “average of 7 human plague cases has been reported nationwide each year in the U.S.”