In Oregon, health officials have confirmed the first case of bubonic plague since 2015. According to Deschutes County officials, the individual was likely infected by their pet cat, which displayed symptoms of the disease. However, officials say that the case was caught early and does not pose a significant risk to the public. No other cases have been reported at this time.
Local health officer Dr. Richard Fawcett stated that all close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and given medication to prevent illness. The World Health Organization states that the plague is caused by a bacteria found in small mammals and their fleas. It’s the most common form and is spread through a flea bite or an infected animal. In Central Oregon, squirrels and chipmunks typically carry the disease, but it’s possible for other rodents to also carry it.
Symptoms generally appear two to eight days after exposure and include fever, headache, chills, weakness, and painful lymph nodes. Health officials also stated that bubonic plague can develop into septicemic plague, a bloodstream infection or pneumonic plague, a lung infection if not diagnosed early. To prevent the spread of the plague, officials urge people to avoid contact with rodents, including those that are sick or dead. They also suggest keeping pets on leashes while outdoors and using flea control products to reduce the risk of fleas. Pet cats are particularly susceptible to plague and should be discouraged from hunting rodents if possible. Case reports are most common in some parts of the U.S., including New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado