Deschutes County in Oregon has recently reported the first case of bubonic plague in eight years. This was traced back to a resident who is believed to have been infected by their pet cat. Health officials are taking steps to prevent further spread of the disease, including contacting all close contacts of the infected resident and their pet and providing them with medication to prevent illness.
The bubonic plague, also known as the “Black Death,” is infamous for causing millions of deaths in Europe from 1347 to 1351. However, it is now easily treatable with modern antibiotics. While human-to-human transmission is rare, 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. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that human plague cases in the U.S. average about seven each year, though the number is significantly higher worldwide.
To prevent plague, Deschutes County Health Services recommends various measures such as keeping pets on a leash when outdoors, and refraining from feeding squirrels, chipmunks, 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. It’s important for people living in areas where there is a risk of plague to take these precautions and seek medical attention if they experience any symptoms of the disease.