Friend of Oregon man diagnosed with plague also becomes infected

The Black Death wiped out an estimated 75 million people during the 14th century. The plague - a bacterial disease generated by Yersinia pestis - was found in blood of fleas that traveled with host rats. Getty Images

An image of the plague under a microscope.
Getty Images
(CBS/AP) An Oregon woman was diagnosed with the bubonic plague, once called "black death," over the summer and has since recovered.

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The woman tried to help her friend save the life of a choking cat, health officials said Friday. Her friend Paul Gaylord, also made headlines in June for contracting the rare, dangerous disease.

The central Oregon woman, who asked not to be identified, has recovered since contracting the disease in June. She was treated after showing early symptoms. Gaylord, 60, was hospitalized after he tried to get the cat to drop the mouse from its mouth.

Gaylord spent nearly a month on life support. The woman, identified only as a Gaylord family friend, was out of the area when she started showing symptoms, including fever, chills and pain in the lymph nodes. She was treated with antibiotics at a Portland hospital.

"We got to her just in time," said Karen Yeargain of the Crook County Health Department. "If this hadn't happened, we would have had another critically ill person on our hands," she added.

The cat has since died, and has been sent to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention for testing.

Health officials suspected the woman had the plague, but it was not confirmed until lab results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came back last week, Yeargain said.

Plague is a bacterial illness spread through the bite of infected fleas or through direct contact with an infected animal or person. The disease is now extremely rare. There are about seven cases a year in the U.S.

Besides these two cases, just last month a7-year-old girl from Coloradodeveloped the plague from insects surrounding a dead squirrel she wanted to bury on a camping trip.

The World Health Organization has more on the plague.

  • CBS News Staff

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