An Oregon man has come down with a case of the common Black Death after rescuing a mouse from the clutches of a stray cat.
He is currently in critical condition and is being treated with antibiotics at the St. Charles Medical Center in Bend.
The man was bitten two weeks ago in the process of pulling the mouse out of the cat's mouth, but it remains unknown which animal was infected with the disease. The cat has since died, and its body has been sent to the CDC for analysis. However, the black plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis, is typically transmitted through rodents who are bitten by carrier fleas.
Since record-keeping began in 1934, Oregon hospitals have documented multiple cases of black plague — the same disease that reduced Europe's population by as much as two-thirds during the 14th century — but only five since 1995. In all those years, only four people have died after contracting the ailment.
"This can be a serious illness," said Oregon's public health veterinarian Emilio DeBess. "But it is treatable with antibiotics, and it's also preventable."
DeBess offered some advice to those looking to avoid coming into contact with the terrible illness: "Taking a mouse out of a cat's mouth is probably not a good idea."