In recent news, Oregon has experienced its first case of bubonic plague in eight years, according to health officials in Deschutes County. The disease was traced back to a resident who is believed to have been infected by their pet cat. Deschutes County Health Services Officer Dr. Richard Fawcett stated that all close contacts of the infected resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness.
The bubonic plague is notorious for having caused millions of deaths in Europe from 1347 to 1351, but it is now easily treatable with modern antibiotics. However, if not treated quickly, the disease can result in serious illness and even death. Despite this, plague infections continue to occur in rural parts of the West, such as New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that human plague cases in the U.S. average about seven each year, though the number is significantly higher worldwide.
To prevent plague, Deschutes County Health Services recommends various measures such as keeping pets on a leash when outdoors and refraining from feeding squirrels, chipmunks or other wild rodents. Symptoms of the disease in humans usually appear between two to eight days after exposure to an infected animal or flea and can include fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes.