In Oregon, health officials have recently announced the first case of bubonic plague in eight years. The disease was traced back to a resident who is believed to have been infected by their pet cat. Dr. Richard Fawcett, the county’s Health Services Officer, stated that all close contacts of the infected resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness. The disease is generally spread through a bite from an infected flea or contact with an infected animal, with human-to-human transmission being rare.
Despite the infamous reputation of the bubonic plague for causing millions of deaths in Europe during the 14th century, it is now easily treatable with modern antibiotics. However, if not treated quickly, the disease can result in serious illness and even death. Although cases are rare in the U.S., they continue to occur in rural parts of the West such as New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), human plague cases in the U.S average around seven each year, although this 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.