Deschutes County health officials confirm rare case of human plague; The resident was likely infected by pet cats

Deschutes County health officials confirm rare case of human plague;  The resident was likely infected by pet cats

It is the first case reported in Oregon in nearly a decade; Caught early, ‘minimal risk to society’

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Deschutes County Health Services said Wednesday it has confirmed a rare case of human plague in a local resident, the first in Oregon in nearly a decade. They said the person was likely infected by their symptomatic pet cat.

“All close contacts of the resident and his pet have been contacted and provided medications to prevent illness,” said Dr. Richard Fawcett, Deschutes County Health Officer.

Plague symptoms usually begin in humans two to eight days after exposure to an infected animal or flea. These symptoms may include a sudden onset of fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle pain, and/or clearly swollen lymph nodes called buboes.

If not diagnosed early, bubonic plague can develop into septicemic plague (bloodstream infection) and/or pneumonic plague (lung infection). These forms of plague are more dangerous and difficult to treat.

Fortunately, health officials say this condition was identified and treated in the early stages of the disease, posing no significant risk to the community. No additional cases of plague emerged during the infectious disease investigation.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, plague is rare in Oregon, with the last case reported in 2015. It is spread to humans or animals through the bite of an infected flea or through contact with an animal sick with the disease. The most common animals that transmit plague in central Oregon are squirrels and chipmunks, but mice and other rodents can also transmit the disease.

Tips to prevent the spread of plague:

  • Avoid any contact with rodents and their fleas. Never touch sick, injured, or dead rodents.
  • Keep pets on a leash when outside and protect them with flea control products. Do not allow pets to approach sick or dead rodents or explore their burrows.
  • Domestic cats are highly susceptible to plague, and infected cats can transmit the bacteria to humans. If possible, discourage hunting of rodents. Consult your veterinarian immediately if your cat becomes ill after coming into contact with rodents.
  • Residents should keep wild rodents out of homes and remove food, woodpiles and other rodent-attracting materials around homes and outbuildings.
  • Do not camp, sleep or rest near animal burrows or areas where dead rodents are observed.
  • Refrain from feeding squirrels, chipmunks, or other wild rodents in campgrounds and picnic areas. Store food and waste in rodent-resistant containers.
  • Wear long pants inside your shoes to reduce exposure to fleas. Apply insect repellent to socks and pant cuffs to help reduce exposure to fleas.

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