Oregon Girl Contracts Bubonic Plague — Here's What You Need to Know


A teenage girl in Oregon is recovering after being hospitalized for what's been confirmed as the bubonic plague. She is believed to have contracted the disease from an infected flea bite during a hunting trip Oct. 21 in Morrow County, according to a press release. Experts are investigating the illness and nobody else is believed to have been infected.

"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," Emilio DeBess, state public health veterinarian in the Public Health Division's Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section, said in the release. "Fortunately, plague remains a rare disease, but people need to take appropriate precautions with wildlife and their pets to keep it that way."

No cases of the disease have been reported in the northeast of the United States from 1970 to 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been eight deaths and 70 reported cases of the disease in the United States since 2000. The highest cases reported in a year since 2000 was in 2006, when 17 cases were reported. All but one case from 1970 to 2012 have been on the West Coast, most concentrated in the Southwest. 

the Center for Disease Control

Here's what else you should know about the bubonic plague:

How it's contracted: Infected rat fleas carry the disease and transmit it to humans through their bite, according to the CDC. Less common causes include handling infected animal tissue, which becomes a higher risk when hunting, and while not likely, the disease can be spread from human to human. 

Where it's most prevalent: The disease is most commonly contracted in Central and Southern Africa, Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, parts of South America and parts of southwestern United States, but it presents minimal risk for travelers, the CDC reports. 

Signs: The plague usually takes one to six days to develop, with the most common symptoms being a rapid onset fever and swollen lymph nodes, the CDC reports.

Medical care: The plague is treated with antibiotic injection therapy. Levofloxacin, an antibiotic made to treat people who have been exposed to anthrax, was also recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat the bubonic plague and has been proven effective through animal testing, according to the CDC.