An Oregon man has caught the Black Plague

Before you start freaking out that the case of an unidentified man in Oregon coming down with the Black Plague is like the opening scene in a real life version of “Contagion,” where the one unidentified man is the seed of an epidemic that sweeps the globe inexorably, take heart: that’s not going to happen.

In fact, it turns out people have actually been getting the Black Plague all along. I don’t know why we don’t hear about it more often since it seems like a case of the most feared disease in human history, which wiped out a third of Europe in the 1300s, popping up in modern times would be fairly significant news. But NY Daily News reports that between 1,000 and 3,000 people actually contract the Black Plague each year worldwide.

You still catch the Plague the old-fashioned way: from rats and miceā€”fleas that attach themselves to rodents carry it. Ironically, this poor Oregon man was trying to save a mouse from certain death in the jaws of a stray cat when he himself caught the disease known as the Black Death.

“Taking a mouse out of a cat’s mouth is probably not a good idea,” Emilio DeBess, Oregon’s public health veterinarian, told NY Daily News.

While only 1 in 7 cases of the Plague is fatal these days, the man is listed in critical condition in an Oregon hospital. The symptoms sound unimaginably horrible, including “rotting flesh.” If this guy is in this bad shape with the help of a modern hospital, it’s no wonder it wiped out 75 million people in Europe in the middle ages. It’s enough to scare God into an entire continent, which is basically exactly what happened.

Here’s to the roughly 86% chance the man will survive. When he recovers, someone needs to get him a t-shirt reading, “I survived the Black Plague, and all I got was this stupid t-shirt.”