Oregon has been confirmed to have its first case of bubonic plague since 2015, health officials say. According to Deschutes County officials, the person was likely infected by their pet cat who displayed symptoms of the disease. However, officials say the case was caught early and doesn’t pose much of a risk to the public. No other cases have been reported.
Local health officer Dr. Richard Fawcett stated that all close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and given medication to prevent illness. The World Health Organization states that the plague is caused by a bacteria found in small mammals and their fleas. It’s the most common form, and is spread through a flea bite or an infected animal. In Central Oregon, squirrels and chipmunks normally carry the disease. However, it’s possible for other rodents to also carry it.
Symptoms generally appear two to eight days after exposure. They include fever, headache, chills, weakness and painful lymph nodes. Health officials also stated that bubonic plague can develop into septicemic plague, a bloodstream infection, or pneumonic plague, a lung infection, if not diagnosed early.
To prevent the spread of the plague, officials urged people to avoid contact with rodents, including those that are sick, injured or dead. They also suggested keeping pets on leashes while outdoors. Additionally, they recommended using flea control products to reduce the risk of fleas. Pet cats are particularly susceptible to plague and should be discouraged from hunting rodents, if possible. Case reports are most common in some parts of the U.S. including New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, California, Oregon and Nevada. Most cases are of the bubonic form, and approximately seven new cases are reported each year.