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Plague: Oregon Man Contracts Yersinia Pestis, Now Hospitalized In Critical Condition

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An Oregon man is in critical condition after being infected with the plague, the Oregonian reports.

The man was bitten by a cat on Saturday, June 2, while trying to remove a dead mouse from the feline's mouth, according to the Crook County Department of Public Health and the Oregonian. The man checked himself into a hospital the following Friday.

The Oregon Department of Public Health confirmed on Thursday that the unidentified man, who's in his 50s, has tested positive for Yersinia pestis, the same bacteria that was responsible for the pandemic that decimated Europe's population in the 14th century.

The cat, which was a stray that had lived in the neighborhood for a number of years, has since died. Its body has been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for testing.

According to the CDC humans can become infected with plague after handling an infected animal or being bitten by a flea carrying the plague bacterium.

But cases of plague are extremely rare, especially in the U.S.

According to the CDC, about 10 to 15 people each year in the U.S. become infected with plague. The last epidemic in a U.S. urban area occurred in 1924 in Los Angeles.

"There's no reason to panic," Emilio DeBess, a public health veterinarian at the Oregon Department of Health told KATU's Emily Sinovic. "It's a bacterial disease -- a very treatable condition."

"If it's recognized early by fever, malaise and swollen lymph nodes, it can usually be treated with antibiotics and people recover quite well," Dr. DeBess told HuffPost by phone.

Since 1995, Oregon has had four other human cases of plague, and none have been fatal, according to the Crook County Health Department.

To prevent the risk of transmission, Dr. DeBess suggests treating animals for fleas as well as avoiding handling wild or sick animals.

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