In recent news, health officials in Deschutes County have announced the first case of bubonic plague in the region in eight years. The disease 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 individual and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness.
While bubonic plague may bring images of medieval Europe and the Black Death to mind, it is now easily treatable with modern antibiotics. However, if not treated quickly, it can result in serious illness and even death. The disease is generally spread through a bite from an infected flea or contact with an infected animal. Human-to-human transmission is rare and was identified early in this case and swiftly treated according to officials.
Although bubonic plague may seem like a distant memory, it continues to occur in rural parts of the West such as New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that human plague cases in the U.S average about seven each year though the number is significantly higher worldwide. To prevent plague 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 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