Deschutes County health officials in Oregon have confirmed the state’s first case of bubonic plague since 2015. The person, likely infected by their symptomatic pet cat, was caught early and poses little risk to the community. No additional cases have been reported. All close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness.
Plague is caused by a bacteria found in small mammals and their fleas, according to the World Health Organization. Bubonic plague is the most common form of the disease and can be spread through the bite of an infected flea or contact with an infected animal. In Central Oregon, squirrels and chipmunks most often carry the disease, but health officials also noted that mice and other rodents can carry it too.
Symptoms typically appear two to eight days after a person is exposed to an infected animal or flea. They include fever, headache, chills, weakness, and one or more swollen, painful lymph nodes called buboes. If not diagnosed early, bubonic plague can develop into septicemic plague, a bloodstream infection or pneumonic plague, a lung infection – both forms are more severe and difficult to treat.
To prevent the spread of plague officials urged people to avoid contact with rodents including those that are sick injured or dead. They suggested keeping pets on leashes while outdoors and using flea control products to reduce the possibility that they get fleas. Pet cats are particularly susceptible to plague so health officials discouraged them from hunting rodents if possible. Plague was first introduced to the U