The plague is a bacterial illness that can be contracted through the bite of inflected fleas or through direct contact with infected animal or person. This illness killed millions in the Middle Ages. The illness is now rare and in the United States – there are less than 10 reported cases annually.
In the current instance, a 60-year-old woman contracted the disease when she attempted to save a cat who was choking on a mouse cat in June 2012 in Oregon. She was bitten by the cat, started showing fever and chills shortly thereafter, but recovered through timely medical treatment at a Portland hospital.