In recent years, bubonic plague cases in the United States have been on the rise. The latest case to be reported was in Oregon’s Deschutes County, marking the first occurrence in eight years. Health officials have traced the infection back to a resident who is believed to have been infected by their pet cat.
Dr. Richard Fawcett, Deschutes 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. Bubonic plague is generally spread through a bite from an infected flea or contact with an infected animal, with human-to-human transmission being rare.
Despite its infamous past as a deadly disease that caused millions of deaths in Europe during the 14th century, bubonic plague is now easily treatable with modern antibiotics. However, if not treated quickly, it can result in serious illness and even death. In the US, plague infections continue to occur in rural areas 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 US average around seven each year though this number is significantly higher worldwide.
To prevent bubonic plague, Deschutes County Health Services recommends various measures such as keeping pets on a leash when outdoors and refraining from feeding squirrels or other wild rodents. Symptoms of the disease usually appear between two to eight days after exposure to an infected animal or flea and can include fever, nausea, weakness