Entries in Black Plague (2)


Oregon Man to Lose Fingers from Black Plague

Pixland/Getty Images(BEND, Ore.) -- Doctors will amputate an Oregon man's fingers and his toes next week, which were ravaged by the black plague, an infection prevalent in medieval times that is rarely seen in the U.S. today.

Paul Gaylord, 59, is recovering at the St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, Ore., after he contracted the plague in early June, said his niece, Andrea Gibb.

"We all thought it was crazy," Gibb said.  "Even the doctors thought, 'No way, it can't be.'  They did not think at all.  It was like turning a page in a book."

Only five to 10 cases of the plague occur each year in the United States, predominantly in the southwestern part of the country, said Sue Straley, a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and an expert on the plague, making it more "rare" to have a case in the Pacific Northwest.

The infectious disease is carried by fleas and can infect humans and animals, Straley said.

In Gaylord's case, he contracted the disease from his family cat, Charlie, when he tried to remove something bulging from the cat's throat.

Gaylord reached into the animal's mouth to remove the bulge, which turned out to be a rodent, Gibb said.  When he was unable to dislodge the mouse, Charlie "lashed out" at Gaylord, "attacking him," said Gibb.

Gaylord shot Charlie to end the animal's suffering and buried the pet, who had "been a part of the family and was loved" for six years, in his yard, Gibb said.  Two days later, Gaylord awoke with "flu-like symptoms."

Gibb said he visited a doctor, who diagnosed him with cat scratch fever and advised him to return if his symptoms worsened.

A few days later, they did.

"He was pale as a ghost and sweat was dripping off of him," Gibb said.

Gaylord was taken to the the hospital, where his family was told he was "in grave condition" and his organs were beginning to fail.

The cat was dug up from Gaylord's yard and tested positive for the plague, the Crook County Health Department confirmed.  Gaylord spent a month in the intensive care unit at the St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, and is now recovering at the hospital.

Gaylord will no longer be able to continue his work as a welder, but he's very optimistic and knows he is lucky to be alive.

"He is so positive.  He's very positive, eating and exercising his hands and fingers, trying to move them.  He's just happy to be alive," Gibb said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Decoding the Black Plague

Comstock/Thinkstock(HAMILTON, Ontario) -- The Black Death that killed 50 million Europeans six centuries ago is the ancestor of “all the modern plagues we have today worldwide,” say the scientists who decoded its entire genetic structure from the teeth of long-dead Londoners.

“Every outbreak across the globe today stems from a descendant of the medieval plague,” said Hendrik Poinar, a geneticist from Canada’s McMaster University, and leader of the international team whose accomplishment includes being the first to reconstruct the genome of any ancient pathogen. The findings should allow scientists to determine how the notorious bubonic plague, which ravaged Europe between 1348 and 1351, evolved over the centuries, he said. That plague is the genetic ancestor of the plague that claims an estimated 2,000 lives every year.

The research team, headed by scientists from McMaster and the University of Tubingen in Germany, analyzed DNA in a strain of the Yersinia pestis bacterium retrieved from skeletal remains of five people who perished in 1349-50 and were buried in London’s East Smithfield “plague pits,” beneath where the Royal Mint stands today. The scientists extracted the DNA from the victims’ dental pulp.

Poinar said there had been few changes in the genome of the bug since it ravaged Europe. The research team could not tell if those changes contributed to the plague’s increasing disease-causing power. “The next step is to determine why this was so deadly,” Poinar said.

Genetic information drawn from the 14th century victims allowed the scientists to determine that the plague strain that proved one of mankind’s deadliest biological foes dated to sometime between the 12th and 13th centuries. That helped differentiate it from a sixth century Justinian plague, which moved through the Eastern Roman Empire, wiping out an estimated 100 million people.

The findings, published Wednesday in the online issue of the scientific journal Nature, open the door to understanding more about the history and origin of other infectious diseases, said Johannes Krause of the University of Tubingen, another lead study author. “This will provide us with direct insights into the evolution of human pathogens and historical pandemics.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio