In recent years, Oregon has seen its first case of bubonic plague in eight years. This was traced back to a resident who was likely infected by their pet cat. Deschutes County health officials have taken swift action and contacted all close contacts of the infected resident and their pet, providing them with medication to prevent illness.
The bubonic plague is notorious for having caused millions of deaths in Europe from 1347 to 1351. However, modern antibiotics make it easily treatable today. Despite this, the disease can be deadly if not treated promptly. While rare in humans-to-humans transmission, it is possible and can occur if proper precautions are not taken.
In the U.S., plague infections continue to occur mainly in rural parts of the West, such as New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), human plague cases in the U.S average around seven each year, though the number is significantly higher worldwide.
To prevent bubonic plague infection, Deschutes County Health Services recommends several measures such as keeping pets on a leash when outdoors and avoiding feeding squirrels or chipmunks. Symptoms usually appear between two to eight days after exposure and can include fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes.