The recent announcement by health officials in Deschutes County of the first case of bubonic plague in eight years has raised concerns about the disease. This case was traced back to a resident who is believed to have been infected by their pet cat. Dr. Richard Fawcett, the county’s Health Services Officer, stated that all close contacts of the infected resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness.
Bubonic plague is generally spread through a bite from an infected flea or contact with an infected animal, and human-to-human transmission is rare. While the bubonic plague may seem like a relic of the past, it is still a serious threat in rural parts of the West, such as New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), human plague cases in the U.S. average about seven each year, though the number is significantly higher worldwide.
To prevent plague infections in humans, Deschutes County Health Services recommends various measures such as keeping pets on a leash when outdoors and refraining from feeding squirrels, chipmunks or other wild rodents. Symptoms of the disease in humans 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.
Fortunately for those living in Deschutes County, bubonic plague is now easily treatable with modern antibiotics if identified early and treated swiftly as it was in this case. It’s important for individuals living in rural areas to be aware of potential risks associated with animals and take necessary precautions to protect themselves from this deadly disease