Officials Confirm Rare Bubonic Plague Case In Rural Oregon

A startling case of the bubonic plague is now diagnosed in rural Oregon, the first such instance of the normally third-world disease in the state in eight years. The victim is believed to have been infected by their symptomatic pet cat.

In a press release, Dr. Richard Fawcett of the Deschutes County Health Department said the plague has apparently been contained. “All close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent the disease.”

Symptoms normally appear within two to eight days after exposure. Experts do not believe there will be other cases stemming from the one recently diagnosed.

Health officials said the signs include a sudden fever combined with nausea, chills, weakness, muscle aches and/or swollen lymph nodes.

If the disease is identified and treated early enough, there is minimal risk to the greater community. Oregon officials report there were no new cases exposed during their investigation.

The cat believed to be the carrier was described as “very sick” with a draining abscess. The patient reportedly responded well to antibiotic treatment after being hospitalized.

The danger intensifies if the victim is not diagnosed quickly. According to the county, “bubonic plague can progress to septicemic plague (bloodstream infection) and/or pneumonic plague (lung infection).

Officials described these forms of the disease as “more severe and difficult to treat.” Pneumonic plague is doubly dangerous due to its ability to spread from person to person.

The U.S. on average experiences approximately seven cases per year, and most are centered in rural Western states.

Human infections typically result from bites of fleas that host the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Household pets are susceptible to the bubonic plague if they hunt infected rodents or are bitten by the same fleas.

Animal tissue or body fluids from pets may transfer the disease to humans, and fleas may also be transported into residences on the bodies of these animals. Cats are much more susceptible to bubonic plague than dogs.

That did not prevent multiple Colorado residents in 2014 from contracting the plague after contact with an infected pit bull terrier. Two veterinary clinic workers and the owner were treated for the illness.