Authorities say a pet owner caught bubonic plague from their cat in Oregon

Deschutes County Health Services in Oregon confirmed a case of human plague.

A pet owner has contracted bubonic plague, health officials in Central Oregon say, and it's believed they may have caught it from their cat.

Deschutes County Health Services confirmed a case of plague in a local resident last week. Health officials said the resident “may have been infected with a symptomatic pet cat.” February 7 press release.

“The resident and all close contacts of their pet have been contacted and given medication to prevent illness,” Deschutes County Health Officer Dr. Richard Fawcett said in the statement.

This is the first example of bubonic plague in Oregon since 2015, and plague is “rare” in the state, according to the state's health authority.

Deschutes County health officials said the case was “fortunately” identified and treated in its early stages, “posing little risk to the community.”

“No additional plague cases emerged during the epidemiologic investigation,” health officials said in the release.

How is bubonic plague spread?

According to the Oregon Health Authority, plague is spread to humans or animals through the bite of an infected flea or contact with an infected animal.

To prevent the spread of plague, Deschutes County Health Services urged residents to avoid all contact with rodents and their potential fleas, and not to touch sick, injured or dead rodents.

Residents should not allow pets to approach sick or dead rodents or explore rodent burrows, county health officials said.

What are the symptoms of bubonic plague?

According to the health official, symptoms of plague usually begin in humans two to eight days after exposure to an infected animal or flea.

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Symptoms include sudden onset of fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches and/or swollen lymph nodes known as bubos, the state health authority said.

Can bubonic plague be cured?

Plague is a very serious disease, but can be treated with antibiotics, usually taken for seven to 14 days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If left untreated, people can still die from plague, the CDC says.

Bubonic plague dates back to the Middle Ages, killing millions in Europe before the age of antibiotics. At the time, people did not realize that the plague was spread by fleas living on rats.

According to the CDC, plague was first introduced to the United States in 1900 by rat-infested steamships. It is most common in the western United States

In August 2020, a California resident tested positive for plague, marking the state's first human case in five years.

The South Lake Tahoe resident was an avid walker who tested positive for plague, and authorities believed the dog may have been bitten by an infected flea while walking it in the Truckee River corridor, El Dorado County said in a statement at the time.

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