BEND, Ore. – An Oregon resident has become infected with the bubonic plague, marking the first case in the state in nearly a decade. Health officials suspect that the individual contracted the disease from their pet cat. The infected person, who resides in Deschutes County, a rural area in central Oregon, is the sole reported case thus far.
Alongside the symptomatic feline, all close contacts of the resident and their pet have been identified and provided with medication to prevent illness. While the conditions of both the person and their cat are currently unknown, officials indicate that the case was detected and treated early, posing minimal risk to the community.
Also known as the Black Death, the bubonic plague gained infamy for its devastating impact on Europe during the 14th century. The disease is carried by wild rodents such as squirrels and chipmunks, as well as their fleas. When an infected rodent succumbs to the illness, its fleas can transmit the infection to other animals or humans through bites.
Symptoms of the bubonic plague include a high fever, lethargy, and swollen lymph nodes referred to as buboes. These symptoms typically appear within two to eight days of exposure. While there is no vaccine available, the disease can be treated with antibiotics if diagnosed early. If left untreated, it can prove fatal.
Contracting the bubonic plague is exceedingly rare in the United States, with an average of 5 to 15 cases occurring each year in the western region, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The disease is typically found in rural or semi-rural areas where wild rodents are more prevalent. Health officials urge individuals to avoid any contact with wild rodents, especially those that appear sick or dead, and to refrain from feeding squirrels or chipmunks. It is also advised to keep pets away from wild rodents to prevent infection.
The case of bubonic plague in Oregon serves as a reminder of the ongoing presence of this rare disease. With early detection and appropriate treatment, the risk to public health remains low.