Last week, Deschutes County announced that a resident of Oregon had been diagnosed with the bubonic plague, marking the first human case in the state in eight years. The individual is believed to have contracted the disease from their cat.
Dr. Richard Fawcett, the Deschutes County Health Services Officer, stated that all close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness. The disease is typically spread through a bite from an infected flea or contact with an infected animal. While human-to-human transmission can occur, it is rare.
The Oregon case was identified early and the person was treated promptly, according to officials. They added that while this case does not pose a significant risk to the community at large, no other cases have been reported in the state as of yet. The last case in Oregon was reported in 2015.
The bubonic plague has a dark history as it infamously killed more than a third of Europe’s population—around 25 million people—from 1347 to 1351. However, with modern antibiotics, it is now easily treatable if caught early. If left untreated, though, the disease can progress to infection in the bloodstream and lungs and cause serious illness or death in humans. Symptoms usually appear between two to eight days after exposure to an infected animal or flea and can include fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes called buboes.
While plague cases continue to occur throughout rural parts of the West in states such as New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado with over 1000 confirmed or probable cases reported between 1900 and 2012; on average seven human cases are reported each year in the US according to CDC but numbers worldwide are much higher . In order