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Black Death Discovered In Oregon 404

redletterdave writes "The Black Death, a strain of bubonic plague that destroyed nearly a third of Europe's entire population between 1347 and 1369, has been found in Oregon. Health officials in Portland have confirmed that a man contracted the plague after getting bitten by a cat. The unidentified man, who is currently in his 50s, had tried to pry a dead mouse from a stray cat's mouth on June 2 when the cat attacked him. Days later, fever and sickness drove the man to check himself into Oregon's St. Charles Medical Center, where he is currently in 'critical condition.'"
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Black Death Discovered In Oregon

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  • Re:The Plague (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BitterOak ( 537666 ) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @03:12PM (#40345819)
    True, many of the hiking trails in New Mexico have signs warning that rodents may be carrying the plague. What surprises me, though, is the man is in critical condition. I thought the plague was easily treatable with antibiotics today. Is this a new antibiotic resistant strain?
  • by isopropanol ( 1936936 ) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @03:15PM (#40345849) Journal

    No, must be confirmation bias on your part.

    Black Plague is rare, but still happens you just usually don't hear about it because it's treatable with antibiotics and preventable by controlling rodent populations - neither antibiotic treatment nor effective prevention were known in europe during the middle ages.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 16, 2012 @03:33PM (#40345963)

    Good thing that bacteria cant become resistant to antibiotics, right?

    captcha: evasion

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 16, 2012 @03:33PM (#40345965)
    A professor once told us, "It's around, and yes, occasionally kills someone. You just see, 'person died of severe bacterial infection'."
  • Re:stupid (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Samantha Wright ( 1324923 ) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @03:34PM (#40345969) Homepage Journal

    Have you ever seen a domesticated tiger? What about a domesticated fox []?

    The difference between is mostly just a few generations of human attention. There are some more gradual changes (and numerous abrupt physical changes) at work in dogs, which creates the gap between 'feral' and 'wild' for them, but the most important alterations are purely in how the animal has been raised. Barn cats have been selected for their ability to survive and hunt, after all, for most of history. Not very pet-like traits.

  • by Daetrin ( 576516 ) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @03:49PM (#40346069)
    Actually, epidemiology is entirely unsure about the matter. [] (Also, don't anthropomorphize inanimate objects, they hate it when you do that.)

    Some people think it was the bubonic plague because that matches _some_ of the symptoms reported at the time and y. pestis has been found in mass graves from the period. (Obviously people who disagree are pulling out the "correlation does not equal causation" card.)

    Other people believe it was ebola, anthrax, or something else because the incubation period, the rate and nature of the spread, and some of the symptoms don't match those of the modern bubonic plague.

    Some people believe it was the y. pestis, but it behaved differently back then because humans had zero immunity when it was introduced, and both humans and the bacteria have had a few centuries to evolve since then.

    And some people believe that it wasn't just one disease that was responsible for the black death but a number of different diseases sweeping through around the same time. They didn't know much about disease at the time, and if everyone has heard of the black death and a bunch of people get sick and die, everyone is going to blame it on the black death.
  • Re:The Plague (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Nyder ( 754090 ) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @04:02PM (#40346147) Journal

    Yep, it was a 50-year-old men. People in that demographic are infamous for avoiding medical treatment until it's too late.

    That is because by the time we are that old, we know that most doctors don't actually know as much as they think (meaning they tend to guess alot), and don't want to pay the high price for that.

  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @04:27PM (#40346313)

    neither antibiotic treatment nor effective prevention were known in europe during the middle ages.

    Neither were there pervasive antibiotic resistant bacteria. Today it is "treatable with antibiotics"; but we cannot rely on there not being new strains that are resistant to antibiotics.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 16, 2012 @04:55PM (#40346489)

    Wrong. Bacteria absolutely can become resistant to antibiotics. Scientists have recreated this phenomenon countless times in the lab. Now whether MRSA pre-existed the use of modern antibiotics, I don't know. Maybe you're right.

    Of course, we're both playing fast-and-loose with terminology. By create, of course, I presume we're both referring to the evolutionary mechanism of selective pressure.

  • by Kidipede ( 2607449 ) on Saturday June 16, 2012 @05:13PM (#40346587)
    One big cause of plagues in the Middle Ages was therefore situations that caused huge increases in the rodent population. This happened whenever there were food shortages, because people would stop being able to spare food to feed dogs and cats. When you stop feeding your dog, pretty soon you have to kill it (and then you may as well eat it). Without dogs and cats around, the rat population would take off. That's why in famines, as soon as people get done eating dogs and cats they start to eat rats. But of course the combination of lots of rats with underfed, weakened people means that plague can kill a lot of people. Indeed, the worse food security you had in your town, the more people tended to die of plague.
  • Re:Darwin in action. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968@gm ... minus herbivore> on Saturday June 16, 2012 @09:45PM (#40348413) Journal

    I can't believe I'm even getting involved on this, but your comparison isn't correct. Just as one can have alcohol at anywhere from light beer to pga so too can pot be had with any strength from light buzz to "OMFG where are the cookies?" so it wouldn't be fair to say one is stronger than the other. i would argue that the very fact that it IS illegal is why you get super strength pot now, same as during prohibition you were more likely to get bathtub rotgut than you were a nice light wine. When things are illegal it simply makes more sense to sell the most concentrated you can because the laws treat mellow and strong pot equally and a customer can get more for less by buying stronger stuff.

    I have a feeling once this dark and shameful chapter of our history is over and pot is legal you'll see that just like with alcohol you'll have so many choices in flavor, texture, and intoxication factor that just like with booze there will be something for everyone. Personally i like pot from the Ozarks myself, the rich soil gives it a nice peaty overtone with a lovely aroma, almost like being in a forest, quite lovely.

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