A resident of Oregon has contracted the bubonic plague, marking the state’s first such case since 2015, as reported by health officials last week. The individual likely became infected through exposure to their symptomatic pet cat, according to a statement from Deschutes County Health Services. In response to the diagnosis, health officials have reached out to and provided preventative medication to all known close contacts of the resident and the pet, although the identity of the infected individual has not been disclosed.
The local health authorities have reassured the community that the risk of further transmission is minimal due to the early detection and treatment of the case. They emphasized that no additional instances of the plague have been identified during their investigation of the disease’s spread.
The bubonic plague, which can evolve into more severe forms such as septicemic (blood infection) and pneumonic (lung infection) plague without prompt diagnosis and treatment, is known for symptoms including sudden fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes known as buboes. Typically, symptoms appear within two to eight days following exposure.
Transmission to humans can occur through bites or direct contact with infected fleas or animals. In Central Oregon, squirrels, chipmunks, and to a lesser extent mice and other rodents, are identified as common carriers of the disease. Health officials have issued recommendations for residents and their pets to avoid all contact with rodents and fleas, including those that are sick, injured, or deceased, as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the plague.
This recent case serves as a reminder of the ongoing risk posed by zoonotic diseases and the importance of vigilance in preventing direct contact with potential carriers.