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. All close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and provided with medication to prevent illness, said county health officer Dr. Richard Fawcett.
The case was detected early and poses little risk to the community, officials said. No additional cases were reported. Plague is caused by bacteria found in small mammals and their fleas, according to the World Health Organization. Bubonic plague is the most common form of the disease and can be transmitted by the bite of an infected flea or contact with an infected animal.
Central Oregon is home to chipmunks and chipmunks as well as mice and other rodents that are known carriers of plague. Symptoms usually 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.
To prevent the spread of plague in Central Oregon, health officials urged people to avoid contact with rodents altogether. Keeping pets on leashes while outside and using flea control products were also recommended ways to reduce the risk of getting fleas from rodents. Cats are particularly susceptible to bubonic plague and should not be encouraged to hunt rodents if possible, health officials advised.
Plague was first introduced into the US from steamboats full of rats that arrived in the country in 1900 from Europe via Asia. Most cases were reported in parts of New Mexico, Arizona