Deschutes County Health Services has confirmed the state’s first case of bubonic plague in 2015, in an Oregon resident. It is believed that the resident contracted the disease from their cat. The health department has taken measures to prevent the spread of the illness by contacting all close contacts of the resident and their pet and providing them with medication. Officials have reassured the community that there is little risk since the case was identified and treated early on, and no additional cases have emerged during a communicable disease investigation.
The bubonic plague can progress to more severe forms such as septicemic plague (bloodstream infection) or pneumonic plague (lung infection) if not diagnosed early. The last reported case of human plague in Oregon was in 2015, and officials reminded the public that humans typically begin to show symptoms within two to eight days of exposure. Symptoms include fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes called buboes. Humans can be infected through bites or contact with infected fleas or animals. In Central Oregon, officials warned that squirrels and chipmunks are the most common animals to carry bubonic plague but mice and other rodents can also carry it. Residents and pets should avoid contact with rodents and fleas including sick, injured or dead rodents to prevent its spread.