A man has been hospitalized in Oregon who is believed to be suffering from the black plague, a disease that killed about one-third of the population of Europe during the Middle Ages.
The unidentified man in his 50s became ill several days after being bitten when he tried to get a mouse out of the mouth of a stray cat, according to OregonLive.com. The man was listed in critical condition in a Bend hospital on Tuesday.
NZ Herald News reported that the man showed classic symptoms of the plague - swollen lymph nodes in the groin and armpits. But doctors said he followed that by developing abdominal pain and bleeding, symptoms of septicaemic plague.
The stray cat has since died, and its body has been taken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing. The man was bitten on the hand.
His case marks the fifth case of the plague since 1995- the last four having survived. The CDC said the infection is often transmitted through a flea bite, according to CBS News. It is treated by antibiotics and hospitalization.
The International Business Times reports that cases of the plague are usually found in areas of poor, unsanitary living conditions, but it has begun to reach more affluent areas in the past three decades. Researchers say the infection was likely spread by squirrels and woodrats.
According to the CDC, seven people are diagnosed with the plague each year on average in the U.S. (most cases are found in New Mexico), and 1,000 to 3,000 cases are reported around the world every year. Four people have died since 1934.