Health Officials Confirm Case of Bubonic Plague in the United States

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Health officials in Oregon have confirmed a case of the bubonic plague in the state.

It is believed that the infected person contracted the plague through their infected and symptomatic cat.

“All close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness,” said Dr. Richard Fawcett, Deschutes County Health Officer, in a press release.

Deschutes County explained that symptoms of the plague typically begin in humans “two to eight days after exposure to an infected animal or flea.”

Symptoms may include a sudden onset of fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches, and/or visibly swollen lymph nodes.

“If not diagnosed early, bubonic plague can progress to septicemic plague (bloodstream infection) and/or pneumonic plague (lung infection),” the county explained. “These forms of plague are more severe and difficult to treat. Fortunately, this case was identified and treated in the earlier stages of the disease, posing little risk to the community. No additional cases of plague have emerged during the communicable disease investigation.”

The last case of the plague was reported in Oregon in 2015.

The county also provided the following pointers to avoid becoming infected:

  • Avoid all contact with rodents and their fleas. Never touch sick, injured, or dead rodents.
  • Keep pets on a leash when outdoors and protect them with flea control products. Do not allow pets to approach sick or dead rodents or explore rodent burrows.
  • Pet cats are highly susceptible to plague, and infected cats can transmit the bacterium to humans. If possible, discourage their hunting of rodents. Consult a veterinarian immediately if your cat becomes sick after being in contact with rodents.
  • Residents should keep wild rodents out of homes and remove food, woodpiles, and other attractants for rodents around homes and outbuildings.
  • Do not camp, sleep, or rest near animal burrows or areas where dead rodents are observed.
  • Refrain from feeding squirrels, chipmunks, or other wild rodents in campgrounds and picnic areas. Store food and refuse in rodent-proof containers.
  • Wear long pants tucked into boot tops to reduce exposure to fleas. Apply insect repellent to socks and trouser cuffs to help reduce exposure to fleas.
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