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Rare Bubonic Plague Confirmed in Oregon Since 2015: How to Keep Yourself and Your Pets Safe from Infection

ByEditor

Feb 13, 2024
Health officials say Oregon resident likely contracted bubonic plague from a cat

Bubonic plague has been confirmed in Oregon for the first time since 2015, health officials announced last week. The individual was most likely infected by their symptomatic pet cat, according to Deschutes County officials. No additional cases have been reported and the risk to the community is minimal. All close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and provided with medication to prevent illness.

Plague is caused by a 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 spread through the bite of an infected flea or contact with an infected animal. Squirrels and chipmunks are most commonly associated with carrying plague in Central Oregon, but mice and other rodents can also carry it, health officials said.

Symptoms typically appear two to eight days after exposure to an infected animal or flea. They include fever, headache, chills, weakness, and one or more swollen lymph nodes called buboes. If not diagnosed early, bubonic plague can develop into septicemic plague or pneumonic plague, both of which are more severe and difficult to treat.

To prevent the spread of plague, health 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, health officials said.

Plague was first introduced to the U.S by rat-infested steamships that sailed into the country in 1900 according to CDC data . Most cases are reported in parts of New Mexico , Arizona , Colorado , California , Oregon , Nevada . A majority of cases involve bubonic form of this disease . About seven new cases are reported each year as per CDC numbers .

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