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A Teenage Girl In Oregon Caught Bubonic Plague On A Hunting Trip

The girl is recovering in an intensive care unit at a hospital in Bend, Oregon, health officials said.

Posted on October 29, 2015, at 10:33 p.m. ET

Rocky Mountain Laboratories / AP

A teenage girl in Oregon is recovering from the bubonic plague after she was bitten by an infected flea during a hunting trip, officials said Thursday.

The girl became sick on Oct. 21 and was hospitalized on Saturday, according to the Oregon Health Authority. She remains in intensive care at a hospital in Bend.

Health authorities believe she got the disease from a flea while she was on a hunting trip near the town of Heppner in eastern Oregon. No one else has become sick, and authorities said it's only the eighth diagnosis of plague in the state since 1995.

The plague bacteria is carried by squirrels, chipmunks, and other wild rodents. When they die from the disease, their infected fleas live on and can pass the disease to humans. In the Middle Ages, the plague — or Black Death — is estimated to have killed 75 million people.

With modern antibiotics and early detection, plague deaths are now rare, health officials said. Still, authorities recommend against touching sick or dead rodents, or feeding chipmunks and squirrels.

Centers for Disease Control / Via

"Many people think of the plague as a disease of the past, but it's still very much present in our environment, particularly among wildlife,” Emilio DeBess, state public health veterinarian, said in a statement. “Fortunately, plague remains a rare disease, but people need to take appropriate precautions with wildlife and their pets to keep it that way."

In the U.S., about seven people get the plague every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The death rate is about 8 to 10% of cases, according to the World Health Organization, though the rate may be higher in places where the disease is regularly found.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.