Oregon has had its first case of plague in about eight years, after health officials confirmed it in a state resident, who was suspected to have been infected by his cat.
He Deschutes County Health Services Announced Wednesday that a local resident had the plague, saying it was likely his “symptomatic cat” infected the individual.
“All close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medications to prevent illness,” said Deschutes County Health Officer Dr. Richard Fawcett.
Dr. Fawcett also said the cat was “very sick” and had a draining abscess, which meant a “pretty substantial” infection, according to NBC.
The human case was identified and treated in the early stages of the disease, meaning it posed little risk to the community, health services said.
By the time the patient was hospitalized, the infection had progressed to the bloodstream, the outlet reported.
The independent has contacted Deschutes County Health Services for more information.
However, the patient “responded very well to antibiotic treatment,” according to the doctor.
As the infestation progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult to treat.
During the investigation no further cases of plague have been reported. Dr. Fawcett said, according to NBC, that he would be “very surprised” if they saw other cases.
The most common animals that carry plague in Central Oregon are squirrels and chipmunks, but mice and other rodents can also carry the disease, county health services said.
The last case of plague in Oregon was reported in 2015, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
News reports in 2015 said that a teenage girl, age 16, from Crook County, Oregon, contracted the plague.
Authorities at the time said the girl was believed to have contracted the disease from a flea bite during a hunting trip in Morrow County, which led to her becoming ill and recovering in the intensive care unit.
Last year, reports of non-human cat-related pests were published, such as a case in Wyoming, who reported a case in a cat, but no human diseases, and another in coloradowho also found a cat with the disease.
in a different colorado county, A case of plague was also associated with the recent death of one of its residents in 2023.
It’s unclear how many cases of plague there were in the U.S. in 2023, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said nine cases were reported in 2020, with two deaths.
The total number of plague cases reported between 1970 and 2020 in the US is 496, the CDC said, with an average of seven human cases reported per year.
What is the plague?
The plague is often associated with the Black Death that killed millions of people in Europe in the 13th century or with the global plague outbreak that began in the 19th century.
While cases still exist today, they are not as devastating to the population as in the past, as modern antibiotics are effective in treating the disease.
Plague is transmitted to humans or animals through the bite of an infected flea or by contact with an animal sick with the disease. It is caused by bacteria. Yersinia pestis.
In humans, symptoms will appear two to eight days after exposure.
Symptoms may include sudden fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches and/or visibly swollen lymph nodes called buboes, county health services said.
While a handful of cases have been reported in the United States, plague epidemics have occurred in Africa, Asia and South America, and the majority of human cases since the 1990s have occurred in Africa, the CDC said.
What have Oregon officials advised?
After the confirmed case, the county health service advised its residents to prevent the spread of plague by avoiding contact with rodents and their fleas, keeping pets on leashes while outside, ensuring they were protected with flea products and staying away from rodents.
They said domestic cats are “highly susceptible” to plague and that felines can also transmit the bacteria to humans.
“If possible, discourage rodent hunting,” health services recommend. “Consult a veterinarian immediately if your cat becomes ill after contact with rodents.”
They also advised keeping wild rodents out of homes, not camping or resting near animal burrows or where a dead rodent is seen, refraining from feeding squirrels, chipmunks or other rodents, and storing food and waste in leak-proof containers. rodents.
To reduce exposure to fleas, people should also wear long pants tucked into the tops of boots and use insect repellent on socks and pants cuffs.