The Return of the Bubonic Plague

By: Annie McLaughlin and Ada Yeomans

        A teenage girl in Crook County, Oregon just recently caught the bubonic plague. She was in the to ICU recover from it. According to the Oregon Health Authority and the county health department, she was lucky. Many plague victims do not survive the illness. The health officials believe that she contracted the bacteria from an infected flea during her hunting trip earlier this month in Morrow County, Oregon.

      On her hunting trip to Morrow County, Oregon she began feeling sick on October 21 and was then hospitalized in Bend, Oregon on October 24. The bubonic plague is usually very rare in Oregon, with only eight human cases diagnosed since 1995 and no deaths (according to the Oregon Health Authority). The plague usually occurs in rural and semi-rural areas of the western United States, mostly common in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.             

      There have been fifteen other human cases of the bubonic plague in the United States this year, according to the Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention. Four of the patients they’ve had have died. The CDC is now working with Oregon health officials as well as some local health officials in Crook, Deschutes and Morrow counties, to investigate in this deadly illness.

     A plague vaccine is not available at this time. Officials recommend people avoid any contact with wild rodents, especially sick or dead ones, and should never feed squirrels or chipmunks. People should also keep their pets away from wild rodents to avoid infection. Beware!