Oregon Health Officials Confirm Bubonic Plague

Health officials in Oregon have confirmed a case of the bubonic plague in the state, believed to be contracted through contact with an infected and symptomatic cat.

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

According to Deschutes County, symptoms of the plague typically manifest in humans “two to eight days after exposure to an infected animal or flea.” These symptoms may include a sudden onset of fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches, and visibly swollen lymph nodes.

“If not diagnosed early, bubonic plague can progress to septicemic plague (bloodstream infection) and/or pneumonic plague (lung infection),” explained the county. “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 reported case of the plague in Oregon was in 2015. In light of the recent case, the county provided recommendations to avoid infection:

  • Avoid all contact with rodents and their fleas. Refrain from touching sick, injured, or dead rodents.
  • Keep pets on a leash when outdoors and protect them with flea control products. Prevent pets from approaching sick or dead rodents or exploring 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.
  • Keep wild rodents out of homes and remove food, woodpiles, and other attractants for rodents around homes and outbuildings.
  • Refrain from camping, sleeping, or resting near animal burrows or areas where dead rodents are observed.
  • Avoid 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.