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Yersinia pestis, AKA the Black Death, plagues Oregon man

Yersinia pestis, the strain of bacteria that decimated Europe's population in the Middle Ages, was transmitted to an Oregonian man from either a stray cat or the dead rodent in its mouth.
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A cat that may have transmitted the Black Death to an Oregon man has been sent to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for testing. (China Photos/AFP/Getty Images)

Yersinia pestis — more commonly known as the Black Death — has been contracted by an Oregon man who tried to take a dead rodent out of a stray cat's mouth last week, officials confirmed Thursday.

According to the Oregonian, the unidentified man is still in critical condition at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Oregon. He was reportedly infected with the plague while attempting to pull a mouse from the mouth of a stray cat that his family had befriended, the Oregonian reported. 

It is unclear if the 50-something-year-old was bit by the rodent or the cat, but the feline's dead body is being sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for testing, according to the Oregonian. 

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However, health officials don't blame the cat for the incident, the Associated Press reported.

"The reality is that, in rural areas, part of the role of cats is to keep the rodent population controlled around our homes and barns," Karen Yeargain of the Crook County Health Department told the AP. 

The US experiences an average of seven human plague cases a year, the AP reported. Most cases since the 1970s have occurred in the Western United States, according to the CDC.

Oregon has seen four diagnoses of the plague since 1995, according to Time Magazine, and all four victims survived. 

The plague killed an estimated 25 million people across Europe between 1347 to 1351, Time reported. 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/weird-wide-web/yersinia-pestis-black-death-plagues-oregon-man

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