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Oregon Teenager Diagnosed with Bubonic Plague after a Hunting Trip

Update Date: Oct 30, 2015 10:32 AM EDT

Oregon health officials have confirmed that a teenager was diagnosed with the Bubonic plague. The Oregon Health Authority spokesman, Jonathan Modie, stated that no one else in Crook County has been infected.

The authorities believe that the 16-year-old girl contracted the disease from a flea bite during a hunting trip. The girl, who went hunting near Heppner on Oct. 16, reportedly fell ill about five days after her trip. She was admitted to the intensive care unit at a hospital. Her condition is unknown. 

"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," state public health veterinarian Emilio DeBess stated. "Fortunately, plague remains a rare disease, but people need to take appropriate precautions with wildlife and their pets to keep it that way."

The single case is being investigated by the state's public health epidemiologists, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and health officials from Crook, Deschutes and Morrow Counties.

The Bubonic plague is an extremely rare bacterial disease that is carried by wild rodents and their fleas. There are two other forms of the plague, known as septicemic and pneumonic. When detected early, all forms of the plague can be treated with antibiotics. If the disease is left untreated, it becomes fatal in 66 to 93 percent of the cases. Symptoms for the Bubonic plague include high fever, swollen lymph nodes and weakness.

In Oregon, there have been a total of eight diagnosed cases since 1995 with zero deaths. This year alone, there have been at least 11 cases reported with three fatalities, the CDC stated in August. The cases were in Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, New Mexico and Oregon.

Over the past few decades, on average, there were about seven cases reported each year. Health officials are not sure why there are more cases popping up in 2015.

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