Cat in Oregon infects owner with bubonic plague

Bend, Oregon - An Oregon resident likely contracted the bubonic plague from their cat, according to Public health officials in Deschutes County.

A pet owner in Oregon is believed to have got the bubonic plague from their cat (stock image).
A pet owner in Oregon is believed to have got the bubonic plague from their cat (stock image).  © 123RF/dmitrimaruta

A human case of the bubonic plague was confirmed in Deschutes County, Oregon last week, according to the Associated Press.

Officials believe the individual most likely contracted the disease from their symptomatic pet cat.

According to the public health officials' report, plague symptoms usually appear between two and eight days after contact with an infected animal or person. Humans or animals usually contract the disease through a bite from an infected flea or from contact with sick animals.

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Per health officials, squirrels and chipmunks are the animals most likely to carry plague in Central Oregon, but mice and other rodents can also be carriers.

Bubonic plague symptoms, per officials, "may include a sudden onset of fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches, and/or visibly swollen lymph nodes called buboes."

If the illness is not diagnosed in its early stages, it can progress into the bloodstream and or the lungs and become very difficult to treat.

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There were nine cases of bubonic plague reported in the US in 2020, two of which were fatal.
There were nine cases of bubonic plague reported in the US in 2020, two of which were fatal.  © Screenshot/WHO

As the pet owner in Oregon's illness was identified early and treated, it poses little risk to the community, health officials said.

Moreover, no additional cases of plague have been identified.

"All close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness," said Dr. Richard Fawcett, Deschutes County Health Officer in a press release issued last week.

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According to the World Health Organization, the bubonic plague can be very severe and fatal in 30 to 60 percent of cases.

Cases of bubonic plague in Oregon are rare. The last bubonic plague case in Oregon was reported in 2015.

If you, someone you know, or your pet is exhibiting worrying health symptoms, please contact your veterinarian and local healthcare professional immediately.

Cover photo: 123RF/dmitrimaruta

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