Deschutes County Health Services has confirmed that a resident of Oregon has been infected with the state’s first case of bubonic plague since 2015. The individual is believed to have contracted the disease from their cat, according to Dr. Richard Fawcett, the Deschutes County health officer.
All close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness. Officials reassured the community that there is little risk to it since the case was identified and treated in the early stages of the disease. There have been no additional cases of plague that have emerged during the communicable disease investigation.
The bubonic plague can progress to the more severe and difficult to treat septicemic plague (bloodstream infection) and/or pneumonic plague (lung infection) if not diagnosed early. In Central Oregon, officials warned that the most common animals to carry bubonic plague are squirrels and chipmunks, though they noted that mice and other rodents can also carry the disease.
Humans typically begin to show symptoms of the plague 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. Officials recommend that residents and pets avoid contact with rodents and fleas, including sick, injured, or dead rodents, in order to prevent the spread of the plague.