A woman has been diagnosed with pneumonic plague, a very rare disease that health authorities believe she caught from her pet cats, according to news reports.
The "rare but serious" case of plague in a person living in Fremont County, Wyoming, was announced by health officials on September 15th.
An official statement from the Wyoming Department of Health describes the person contracting the disease through "contact with sick pet cats".
Plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia Pestis and is most notoriously known as the 'Black Death' which spread across Europe in the 1300's.
The infection is still around across the world today, but is thankfully quite rare with about seven cases a year on average, according toCenters for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Plague is also mostly limited to the western U.S. and is most commonly found across New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, Live Science reports.
The woman's case marks the seventh human case of plague in Wyoming since 1978 and is the first reported case in the area since 2008.
This case is particularly unique as the pneumonic plague is reportedly the rarest and most serious form of the disease – and is the only form that can spread from person to person, according to the CDC.
People can contract pneumonic plague if they inhale infectious droplets that are spread by another person or animal who already has the disease.
Pneumonic plague can also develop from other forms of plague, including from the notorious bubonic plague, if not treated quickly.
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Cats are reportedly "highly susceptible" to the rare disease and are a known source of the infections contracted by people.
The CDC said: "Cats can pose a significant plague risk to owners, veterinarians and others who handle or come into close contact with these animals due to possible aerosolization of bacteria."
Luckily with the advance in medicine, plague can be treated with antibiotics, but early treatment is extremely important to avoid serious complications, including death.
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Before the world had created antibiotics, the death rate from plague in the U.S. was about 66%, but today the rate sits at around 11%, according to the CDC.
The Wyoming Department of Health has not released any further details about the patient or her current condition.
But a health officialtold Gizmodothat the woman is currently 'experiencing serious symptoms'.
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