Oregon’s first case of human bubonic plague since 2015 likely came from pet cat, officials say

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BEND Ore. (KPTV) – Last week, health officials revealed that the first human case of the plague in Oregon in over eight years occurred in a resident of rural Deschutes County.

According to Deschutes County Health Services, the person was most likely infected by their pet cat, who had displayed symptoms.

The most common way that humans contract the plague is through flea bites that contain the plague. Pets kept in the home may also contract the disease if they chase rats that have the plague.

Afterwards, through bodily fluids or tissue, such as respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing, pets can infect humans. Alternatively, they could bring fleas home with them, which could bite people.

The plague is far less common in dogs, but not impossible.

All close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness,” said Dr. Richard Fawcett, the Deschutes County health officer.

Officials said there was little risk to the community since the case was identified and treated in the earlier stages of the disease. No additional cases of plague have emerged during the communicable disease investigation.

The bubonic plague can progress into the more severe and difficult to treat septicemic plague (bloodstream infection) and/or pneumonic plague (lung infection) if not diagnosed early.

The last case of human plague in Oregon was reported in 2015, according to Oregon Health Authority.

Within two to eight days of exposure, humans usually start to exhibit signs of the plague. A quick onset of fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches, and observably swollen lymph nodes known as “buboes” are among the possible symptoms.

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