Health officials affirmed that a 16-year-old girl from Oregon contracted bubonic plague last Friday, Oct. 30. Currently, she is admitted to an intensive care unit at a hospital in Bend, central Oregon, for recovery.
Reuter reports that a contaminated flea bite during a hunting trip near Heppner, Oregon, that began two weeks ago could have caused the infection. Other cases of infection were not reported according to the state.
"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," the state's Public Health Division veterinarian Emilio DeBess said. It "remains a rare disease, but people need to take appropriate precautions with wildlife and their pets to keep it that way."
According to the CDC, the plague began in the 1900s when steamships infested with rats arrived in the United States from affected countries like Asia.
Manifestations include flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes, particularly the neck, armpit and groin, which develop one to four days following exposure. But unlike the airborne pneumonic plague, bubonic plague is considered not contagious. With a high fatality rate of 30 to 90 per cent, medical attention should be sought immediately as the disease can kill in as short as ten days.
"Today, modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague. Without prompt treatment, the disease can cause serious illness or death. Presently, human plague infections continue to occur in the western United States, but significantly more cases occur in parts of Africa and Asia," CDC says. Health officials recommend people to avoid contact with wild rodents like squirrel and chipmunks, which can carry fleas that transmit the infection.
The girl is the 16th patient infected with bubonic plague in the United States and marked eight in the state since 1995.