In Oregon, health officials have confirmed the state’s first case of bubonic plague since 2015. The individual was likely infected by their symptomatic pet cat, according to Deschutes County officials. No additional cases have been reported and the case was caught early, posing “little risk to the community.”
Plague is caused by a bacteria found in small mammals and their fleas. Bubonic plague is the most common form of the disease and can be spread through the bite of an infected flea or contact with an infected animal. In Central Oregon, squirrels and chipmunks most often carry the disease. However, health officials said that mice and other rodents can also carry plague.
Symptoms typically appear two to eight days after a person is exposed to an infected animal or flea. They include fever, headache, chills, weakness and one or more swollen, painful lymph nodes called buboes. Deschutes County health officials said that bubonic plague can develop into septicemic plague, a bloodstream infection, or pneumonic plague, a lung infection, if it’s not diagnosed early. Both forms “are more severe and difficult to treat.”
To prevent the spread of the plague, officials urged people to avoid contact with rodents, including those that are sick, injured or dead. They suggested keeping pets on leashes while outdoors and using flea control products to reduce the possibility that they get fleas. Pet cats are particularly susceptible to plague and should be discouraged from hunting rodents if possible