In 2015, Oregon recorded its last case of bubonic plague. This week, health officials announced that a resident of the state has been infected with the first case of bubonic plague since then. According to Deschutes County Health Services, it is believed that the resident was likely infected with plague by their cat.
All close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness, said Dr. Richard Fawcett, the Deschutes County health officer. Officials reassured the community that there is little risk to it since the case was identified and treated in the early stages of the disease. There have been no additional cases of plague that have emerged during the communicable disease investigation.
The bubonic plague can progress to more severe forms if not diagnosed early. It can lead to septicemic plague (bloodstream infection) or pneumonic plague (lung infection). Humans typically begin to show symptoms within two to eight days of exposure, including a sudden onset of fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches and visibly swollen lymph nodes called buboes. Humans can be infected through bites or contact with infected fleas or animals. In Central Oregon, officials warned that squirrels and chipmunks are most commonly known to carry bubonic plague but mice and other rodents can also carry it. Residents are advised to avoid contact with rodents and fleas, including sick, injured or dead rodents in order to prevent its spread.
It’s important for people living in Oregon to stay informed about this potential health risk and take precautions as necessary. If anyone suspects they may have been exposed to the bubonic plague or is experiencing symptoms such as fever or chills should seek medical attention immediately.