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Published July 19, 2012, 10:02 AM

Oregon man infected with Black Plague - Could it happen here?

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - The Black Plague - It's not ancient history as you might think. This rare disease from Medieval times, responsible for nearly wiping out entire populations in regions of Europe, is still showing up. A man in Oregon is recovering from the deadly disease. But could it happen here?

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - The Black Plague - It's not ancient history as you might think. This rare disease from Medieval times, responsible for nearly wiping out entire populations in regions of Europe, is still showing up. A man in Oregon is recovering from the deadly disease. But could it happen here?

It's hard to look at - the blackened, swollen hands of Paul Gaylord, recovering in a Bend, Oregon hospital from the Black Plague.

When Gaylord was trying to rescue his cat - choking on a dead mouse - the frightened cat bit him. Days later he was diagnosed with the Black Plague, a disease that devastated Europe in the 1300s. Sources say it killed hundreds of millions of people.

Stacy Lovelace – Epidemiologist ND Department of Health: "The average in the US is 7 cases a year.

Last time you've likely heard about the Black Plague was in high school or college textbooks while studying the middle ages. Images show massive amounts of people dying from the disease. Now, people say it's shocking to hear of something like this happening in the 21st Century."

Larry Thompson – Johnson’s Pest Control: "I've never really worried about that before, but it's something to think about when you hear about that guy."

Epidemiologists say rodents and fleas carry the disease, and that's not all they carry.

Stacy Lovelace: "There's always a chance to get Hanta virus, but people don't realize that's out there."

Johnson's Pest Control employee Larry Thompson sees his share of pest problems, mostly mice burrowing under homes. He says it's his job to get rid of them, not just for aesthetic reasons, but for health.

Larry Thompson: "Their fecal matter they leave in the ceilings and the walls get thicker and thicker, and soon you start breathing this."

Gaylord is out of intensive care, yet doctors say he faces a long recovery. They're waiting to see if they can save a portion of his fingers.

The CDC shows both North Dakota and Minnesota haven't had a case of the Black Plague since they started compiling research in the 1970s.

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