Man likely sickened by plague in critical condition in Bend | OregonLive.com EXCERPTS: A man hospitalized in Bend is likely suffering from the plague, marking the fifth case in Oregon since 1995. The unidentified man, who is in his 50s, fell ill several days after being bitten while trying to get a mouse away from a stray cat. The man is now being treated at St. Charles Medical Center-Bend, where he was listed in critical condition on Tuesday. ....... The Black Death raged through Europe during the Middle Ages, killing about a third of the population. Today, the disease is rare, but the bacteria have never disappeared. ......... There's one bacterium that causes the disease -- Yersinia pestis -- but it can develop into three types of illnesses depending on how an individual's body reacts. Initially, the man had swollen lymph nodes -- a sign of bubonic plague -- but now he's showing signs of septicemic plague, when the bacteria multiply in the bloodstream. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bleeding mouth, nose or rectum and dying tissue. The third type is pneumonic plague, which affects the lungs. DeBess said it's not clear whether the man was bitten by the mouse or by the cat. The feline died, and its body has been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing. .............. "Taking a mouse out of a cat's mouth is probably not a good idea," DeBess said. .............. DeBess said Oregon has a record of plague cases dating to 1934, with about a case a year and some periods when no cases appear. The prevalence of the disease depends in part on the weather and food supplies. When rodents flourish, so do fleas. That increases the likelihood of infection. ........... A plague vaccine exists but is no longer sold in the U.S. Everyone in Oregon who has fallen ill with the plague since 1934 has lived in a rural setting. But people in urban areas can become infected, too, health officials said. DeBess said people should be cautious around strays and should not handle wild animals. For example, Northern California has suffered waves of squirrel deaths caused by the plague.