Oregon health officials confirmed a 16-year-old girl was diagnosed with bubonic plague, reported USA Today Friday. The Oregon Health Authority said the girl likely acquired the disease from a flea bite while on a hunting trip near Heppner, Oregon that began Oct. 16.
The girl felt sick five days later and was admitted into the intensive care unit at a hospital in Bend, Oregon. Officials said she is recovering in the hospital but no other updates on her condition were provided. No one else in the country has been infected with the plague, Oregon Health Authority spokesman James Modie told USA Today.
Plague is rare and treatable with antibiotics if caught early. But there has been an uptick in diagnoses of the infectious disease in 2015, with 13 cases and three deaths as of a Sept. 7 report from the New York Times. Cases have arisen in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah. Two cases were linked to exposure that occurred at Yosemite National Park.
Teenager in Oregon diagnosed with bubonic plague and now in intensive care after going on a hunting trip https://t.co/belHtvmHom
— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) October 30, 2015
Plague is often associated with the Middle Ages, when massive epidemics killed millions in Europe. But it is a modern disease as well, if far rarer and much more treatable.
"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," said Dr. Emilio DeBess, a veterinarian in Oregon's Public Health Division, in a statement. "Fortunately, plague remains a rare disease, but people need to take appropriate precautions with wildlife and their pets to keep it that way."
Symptoms of plague typically develop between one to four days after exposure and include fever, chills, headache, weakness and a bloody or watery cough. Bubonic is one of three commons types of plague along with pneumonic plague, an infection of the lungs, and septicemic plague, an infection of the blood, according to United States National Library of Medicine. Bubonic plague affects the lymph nodes, and unlike pneumonic plague, it is not spread person to person. Antibiotics are effective in fighting all three types of plague if caught early, but if left untreated plague is fatal in 66 to 93 percent of cases, according to the New York Times.
To avoid getting the plague, Oregon officials recommended a number of measures in a statement:
-Avoid sick or dead rodents, rabbits and squirrels, and their nests and burrows.
-Keep your pets from roaming and hunting.
-Talk to a veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product on pets.
-Clean up areas near the house where rodents could live, such as woodpiles, brush piles, junk and abandoned vehicles.
-Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian.
-See your doctor about any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever.
-Put hay, wood and compost piles as far as possible from your home.
-Don’t leave your pet’s food and water where mice can get to it.
-Veterinarians and their staff are at higher risk and should take precautions when seeing suspect animal plague cases.