Oregon has recently experienced its first case of bubonic plague since 2015, health officials announced last week. The individual is believed to have been infected by their symptomatic pet cat, according to Deschutes County officials. Despite this, the case was caught early and poses little risk to the community, with no additional cases reported.
All close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness, county health officer Dr. Richard Fawcett stated on Wednesday. Plague is caused by a bacteria found in small mammals and their fleas, as per the World Health Organization (WHO). Bubonic plague is the most common form of the disease and can be transmitted through an infected flea or contact with an infected animal. Squirrels and chipmunks are the most common carriers of the disease in Central Oregon, but mice and other rodents can also carry it.
Symptoms usually appear two to eight days after exposure to an infected animal or flea. They include fever, headache, chills, weakness, and one or more swollen lymph nodes called buboes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If not diagnosed early, bubonic plague can develop into septicemic plague, a bloodstream infection or pneumonic plague, a lung infection – both of which are more severe and difficult to treat.
To prevent the spread of plague, health officials advised people to avoid contact with rodents – sick, injured or dead – as well as using flea control products on pets. Pet cats are particularly susceptible to plague and should be discouraged from hunting rodents if possible. Plague was first introduced to the United States by rat-infested steamships that sailed here in 1900. Most cases are reported in parts of New Mexico