A man living in Oregon was trying to remove a mouse from his cat’s mouth when the cat bit him. The man, in his 50’s, began experiencing swollen lymph nodes shortly after the bite. After checking himself into the hospital he began to experience more extreme symptoms such as bleeding from the mouth, nose, and rectum. It was determined by doctors that the unnamed man had indeed contracted the Plague, known to science as Yersinia pestis, and known to the population of the 14th century as the Black Death.
This disease which is carried by rat born fleas once wiped out 60% of Europe’s population. Modern antibiotics are thought to be strong enough to tackle the plague, which is usually transfered to humans via a bite from a rat or another infected animal. Each year, it is estimated that 10 to 20 people in the U.S. are infected with the plague, but only 4 people have died since 1934. With numbers that low, the United States no longer makes a vaccine available for the plague.
The man who contracted the plague in Oregon is currently at the St. Charles Medical Centre in Bend receiving intensive treatment. His condition is listed as critical.
In the 14th century, masks like the one depicted here were worn by individuals known as "plague doctors". The medical community of the time wrongly believed that the Black Death was caused by birds, thus the mask was meant to "trick" the disease into coming out of the infected person in an attempt to infect the bird. It is also thought that the long beak of the mask was filled with aromatic items meant to sheild the wearer from the inevitable stench coming from both the infected and the dead.