In recent years, Oregon has seen its first case of bubonic plague in eight years. This was traced back to a resident in Deschutes County who is believed to have been infected by their pet cat. Health officials have taken swift action and contacted all close contacts of the infected individual and their pet, providing them with medication to prevent illness. The disease is generally spread through a bite from an infected flea or contact with an infected animal, though human-to-human transmission is rare.
Though the bubonic plague may be infamous 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. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that human plague cases in the U.S. average around seven each year, though the number is significantly higher worldwide.
To prevent the spread of bubonic plague, Deschutes County Health Services recommends various measures such as keeping pets on a leash when outdoors and avoiding 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.