The bubonic plague shows up in Oregon

Experts say the infection likely originated from the patient’s pet cat

With colds, the flu, and COVID-19 running rampant this time of year, there are plenty of viruses and infections to avoid.  

However, there may be a new threat to be concerned about. Recently, a case of bubonic plague was detected in a resident of Deschutes County, Oregon – the first such case in the state in nearly a decade. Local health officials are linking the infection to the resident’s pet cat that had been exhibiting similar symptoms. 

Symptoms of human plague include sudden onset of fever, muscle aches, weakness, nausea, chills, and swollen lymph nodes. Humans are likely to start experiencing symptoms between two and eight days after coming into contact with an infected animal or flea. 

Health officials have already contacted anyone who came into close contact with the infected resident, and antibiotics have been administered. 

Oregon residents shouldn’t worry

The Deschutes County Health Department is encouraging community members that the resident presenting with the infection was caught in the early stages. This is promising when it comes to containing the spread, as well as preventing the infection from worsening. 

Experts explained that bubonic plague can spread to the bloodstream or the lungs when not caught early enough, and these infections tend to be more serious and harder to treat. 

“Fortunately, this case was identified and treated in the earlier stages of the disease, posing little risk to the community,” experts wrote. “No additional cases of plague have emerged during the communicable disease investigation.” 

Tips for preventing infection

For humans to become infected with bubonic plague, they must come into contact with either an infected animal – like a cat, rodent, chipmunk, etc. – or get bit by an infected flea. 

The Deschutes County Health Department has shared a number of tips with consumers to help prevent the spread of plague: 

  • Never touch dead, injured, or sick rodents. 

  • Avoid camping or sleeping in areas where dead rodents have been spotted. 

  • Cat owners should limit their pet’s interactions with mice and other rodents. 

  • Pet owners should get flea control products, and keep their pets away from dead or sick rodents. 

  • For non-pet owners, you can reduce your exposure to fleas by using bug spray – especially on socks and pant cuffs.

  • Make sure the area around your home is free of woodpiles, food, or other things that can attract rodents. 

  • If you’re camping or out in the woods, avoid feeding animals or rodents, and make sure all of your food is properly stored and sealed.

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