SURPRISE PLAGUE: Oregon Resident Contracts Bubonic Plague from Sick Pet Cat

An Oregon resident has been infected with the bubonic plague after coming into contact with their sick pet cat. This is the first case of the Black Death bacterium in the state since 2015.


Plague Case in Oregon

An Oregon resident has contracted bubonic plague from their pet cat, according to local health officials. This is the first case of the Black Death bacterium in the state since 2015. The person's cat was reportedly extremely sick and had a draining abscess, indicating a significant infection. The infection was caught early before it developed into a more severe bloodstream infection. However, doctors noted that the person developed a cough during treatment, which could signal progression towards pneumonic plague, a more life-threatening and contagious form of the disease. The person's case responded well to antibiotic treatment, and they are now recovering.

Plague bacteria, Yersinia pestis, circulates in the US in various types of rodents and their fleas. The disease causes an average of seven human cases per year, with the majority occurring in two regions: northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, southern Colorado, and California, far western Nevada, southern Oregon. Health officials have worked to prevent the spread of the disease by providing medication to close contacts of the infected person and their pet.

Cats are particularly susceptible to plague and are considered a common source of infection in the US. When left outdoors, cats can pick up infections from fleas and infected rodents. Dogs can also become infected, but they are less likely to develop clinical illness.

Preventing Plague Infection

Plague cases are generally rare in the US, but it is important to take precautions to prevent infection. Deschutes County Health Services has provided some general tips to avoid contracting the disease:

- Avoid contact with fleas and rodents, especially sick, injured, or dead ones

- Keep pets on a leash and protected with flea control products

- Take measures to keep rodents away from homes and buildings

- Avoid areas with a high rodent population while camping and hiking, and wear insect repellant to ward off fleas

Following these guidelines can help reduce the risk of bubonic plague infection.

Plague in the US

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been 496 plague cases in the US between 1970 and 2020, with 14 deaths recorded between 2000 and 2020. Plague bacteria, Yersinia pestis, is carried by rodents and their fleas. The disease can cause symptoms such as fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes. Without treatment, the infection can progress to more severe forms, including septicemic and pneumonic plague.

While the plague is rare, it is important to be aware of the risks and to seek medical attention if symptoms develop after potential exposure to infected fleas or rodents.