Man gets sick with the plague after trying to save a mouse from a cat

Published On: Tuesday, December 25, 2012 1:00 AM
By: David Ross
Cat eating a mouse
An Oregon man seems to be suffering from the plague after he tried to rescue a mouse from the mouth of a wild cat.

"This can be a serious disease," Emilio De Bess, state public health veterinarian, told the news media. "But is treated with antibiotics, and is preventable."

The unidentified man about 50 years old is receiving care and is listed in critical condition. Doctors have not officially confirmed that he is suffering from the plague, but they say he is showing several symptoms leading to a probable diagnosis.

What can be the most fascinating aspect of his condition is that this is not the only recent case of the pest in Oregon or the U.S. In fact, the news media reported that this is the fifth case in the Beaver State since 1995. Bess says Oregon has the record of modern cases of the plague in the U.S. with approximately one case per year since 1934. At that time, four people have died of symptoms associated with infection of the blood.

A vaccine against plague exists, but the disease has become so rare in the U.S. that the vaccine is no longer sold here. Although cases of plague are rare, the bacteria that causes the infection still exists and is fatal in more than 90 percent of untreated cases.

The man was bitten  and is said to have symptoms of septicemia plague, the rarest of the three known forms of blood infection where the bacteria Yersinia pestis can manifest.
And before anyone starts pointing fingers, Bess said doctors are still unsure if the man contracted the disease from the cat or the mouse. The cat, which has died has been transferred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further testing.
"Handling a mouse out of the mouth of a cat is probably not a good idea," said Bess.