Health officials in Deschutes County, Oregon have recently announced the first case of bubonic plague in the state in eight years. The disease was traced back to a resident who was likely infected by their pet cat. According to Dr. Richard Fawcett, the county’s Health Services Officer, all close contacts of the infected resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness.
The bubonic plague is infamous for having caused millions of deaths in Europe from 1347 to 1351, but it is now easily treatable with modern antibiotics. However, if not treated quickly, the disease can result in serious illness and even death. In the U.S., plague infections continue to occur in rural parts of the West, such as New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. Although human-to-human transmission is rare, health officials urge people to be cautious when encountering wild animals or rodents that may carry the disease.
To prevent plague, Deschutes County Health Services recommends various measures such as keeping pets on a leash when outdoors and refraining from feeding squirrels or other wild rodents. Symptoms of the disease in humans usually appear between two to eight days after exposure to an infected animal or flea and can include fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes. If anyone suspects they may have been exposed to the bubonic plague or is experiencing symptoms of the disease, they should seek medical attention immediately.