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Oregon Reports New Case of Bubonic Plague

You are currently viewing Oregon Reports New Case of Bubonic Plague
This reported case happened when a cat owner was infected by their sick cat.
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In rural Oregon, a new case of human bubonic plague was reported, the first human case in Oregon in over eight years. The person who has the disease is a resident of Deschutes County and is believed to have been infected by their cat. According to the report from the Deschutes County Health Services Department, the person’s cat had developed feelings and due to the owner’s contact with the cat, they were then infected. Humans can be infected by a pet through transfer via tissue or bodily fluid. This means that if the animal sneezed or coughed on the owner, licked the owner, or the owner touched anything while cleaning the cat’s food bowls or litter box. Humans can also be infected by animals that are carrying fleas, which are usually what infect the animal in the first place.

Cats are actually more prone to carrying the plague than other household pets like dogs.

Most often, cats get the plague from fleas which carry Yersinia pestis, the form of bacterium that causes the bubonic plague. These fleas usually live on rats who come into contact with other animals, like cats, and the fleas will then hop to the other animal and the cycle continues until it reaches humans. Having an infected flea on the animal does not guarantee that the animal will get infected, but cats often do. Cat’s bodies struggle to clear up infection, so if they end up getting sick, they stay sick unless tended to by a human. Additionally, they are more likely to chase and capture rodents, leading to more frequent exposure.

In this case, the cat was very ill and had a draining abscess, which is what is believed to lead to the owner’s infection.

The infection is identified as the bubonic plague because of the nature of how it started in the body; it starts with the infection of a lymph node. The infection spread from there, going into the bloodstream, and leading to the person needing to be hospitalized. County health officials said the person responded well to antibiotics but showed signs of now possibly having developed pneumonic plague, which raised concerns as that easily spreads among humans.

The county health officials decided to act in preparation of wider spread and gave antibiotics to all who the infected person had recently been in contact with, to nip any potential spreading in the bud. They have expressed confidence in their plan, stating they will be “very surprised if we see any other cases.”

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