Oregon Health Officials Confirm Human Case Of Bubonic Plague

Oregon health officials confirmed the first human case of the bubonic plague found in more than eight years. The victim was reportedly infected by their pet cat.

Deschutes County Health Officer Dr. Richard Fawcett said that the cat was “very sick” and had a draining abscess, which indicated an infection.

Fawcett also stated that all residents and pets in close contact with the victim were contacted and offered antibiotics to prevent any infections from becoming symptomatic.

“If we know a patient has the bacteria in the blood, we might decide to be on the safe side,” he said.

Victims infected with the bubonic plague will display symptoms such as painful swelling and swollen lymph nodes. Most of the time, it can be easily cured with antibiotics.

Victims usually show signs of the infection within two to eight days.

“If not diagnosed early, bubonic plague can progress to septicemic plague (bloodstream infection) and/or pneumonic plague (lung infection),” the county stated. “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.”

According to The Science Times, squirrels, chipmunks, and other wild rodents, along with their fleas, are usually carriers of the bubonic plague. When the affected animal dies, its fleas can transmit the infection to humans and other animals via bite.

Health officials stated that cats are more susceptible to the plague because they are more likely to hunt rodents, and their bodies have a hard time fighting off the infection.

Oregon’s last case of the bubonic plague was in 2015 when an adolescent girl was suspected of being infected by a flea on a hunting trip.

While cases are rare in the U.S., David Wagner, the director of the Biodefense and Disease Ecology Center at Northern Arizona University’s Pathogen and Microbiome Institute, stated that the “hot spot” for the infection is in the “Four Corners region,” close to the borders of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico.

The bubonic plague led to the Black Death, which killed millions of people in Europe during the Middle Ages. Wagner, however, stated that it does not pose as much of a threat today due to modern medicine.