A resident of Oregon has been infected with the state’s first case of bubonic plague since 2015, health officials announced last week. The resident is believed to have contracted the illness from their cat, according to Deschutes County Health Services. All close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness, said Dr. Richard Fawcett, the Deschutes County health officer.
The bubonic plague can progress to more severe forms such as septicemic plague (bloodstream infection) and pneumonic plague (lung infection) if not diagnosed early. Officials reassured the community that there is little risk since the case was identified and treated in its early stages. There have been no additional cases of plague that have emerged during the communicable disease investigation.
Humans typically begin to show symptoms within two to eight days of exposure, including a sudden onset of fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches and visibly swollen lymph nodes called buboes. Humans can be infected through bites or contact with infected fleas or animals. In Central Oregon, officials warned that squirrels and chipmunks are the most common animals to carry bubonic plague, though mice and other rodents can also carry it. Residents and pets should avoid contact with rodents and fleas, including sick or dead ones, in order to prevent spreading the disease.