Health

Rare Case Of Bubonic Plague Shows Up In Lake County

OPB | Oct. 1, 2010 4:56 a.m. | Updated: July 17, 2012 1:06 a.m. | Bend, OR

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State health officials say a woman in Lake County has been diagnosed with bubonic plague.

It’s the first diagnosis in Oregon in 15 years. The disease terrorized Europe’s population more than 600 years ago, but the plague is treatable when caught early.

The plague is extremely rare these days.  It’s a bacterial infection carried by rodents, and is transmitted to humans though fleas.

Dr. Emilio DeBess is the public health veterinarian and an epidemiologist with Oregon Department of Human Services.

He says the disease, once known as the Black Death got somewhat of a bad rap after killing off a third of Europe’s population in the 1300s.

But he says thanks to scientific advances, it’s no longer a death sentence.

Emilio DeBess: “It’s a very treatable condition with antibiotics and so that’s usually not a concern, back then they didn’t have antibiotics.  We do have very good antibiotics that treat the infection.”

Health officials have not released the name of the Lake County woman who fell ill at the end of August. 

DeBess says authorities are now trying to determine the source of the infection.

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