An Oregon resident has been infected with the first case of bubonic plague in the state since 2015, health officials confirmed last week.
The resident likely contracted the infection from his symptomatic cat, Deschutes County Health Services said in a news release Wednesday.
“All close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and given medications to prevent illness,” Deschutes County Health Officer Dr. Richard Fawcett said in the release, without identifying the infected resident.
Health officials said the risk to the local community is low because they identified the case and treated it in the early stages of the illness. No further cases of plague have emerged during the ongoing investigation.
The resident likely contracted the infection from their pet cat.
How is the plague transmitted?
Humans typically contract the plague from bites from fleas carrying Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes the disease.
Pets can also become infected if they hunt plague-infected rodents or are similarly bitten by an infected flea.
Humans can also be infected by:
- Unprotected contact with infectious bodily fluids or contaminated materials
- Inhalation of respiratory droplets/small particles from a patient with pneumonic plague
Bubonic plague can progress to septicemic plague (blood infection) and/or pneumonic plague (lung infection) which is more serious and more difficult to treat if not diagnosed early. It is therefore essential to recognize the warning signs as soon as they appear.
How do I know if I have it?
According to the health organization Mayo Clinic, bubonic plague causes swelling of the lymph nodes.
They are small bean-shaped filters in the body’s immune system.
As the Mayo Clinic explains, a swollen lymph node is called a bubo. The word “bubonic” describes this characteristic of the disease.
“If a person suffers from bubonic plague, buboes appear in the armpits, groin or neck. The buboes are tender or painful,” he adds.
“They range in size from about less than half an inch (1 centimeter) to about four inches (10 centimeters).”
Bubonic plague can also cause fever and chills
Other symptoms of bubonic plague may include:
- High fever and sudden chills.
- I don’t feel well in general.
- Muscle aches.
- Rarely, skin sores
How is it treated?
Untreated pneumonic plague can be quickly fatal, so early diagnosis and treatment are essential for survival and reducing complications.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antibiotics and supportive therapies are effective against plague if patients are diagnosed in time.
“Pneumonic plague can be fatal within 18 to 24 hours of illness onset if left untreated, but common antibiotics against Enterobacteriaceae (gram-negative rods) can effectively cure the disease if treated. administered early.”