In recent years, Oregon has seen its first case of bubonic plague in eight years. This was traced back to a resident who was likely infected by their pet cat. The disease is generally spread through a bite from an infected flea or contact with an infected animal. However, human-to-human transmission is rare and the Oregon case was identified early and the person was treated swiftly, according to health officials.
While bubonic plague may seem like a thing of the past, it is still a serious disease that can result in illness and even death if not treated quickly. Although it is now easily treatable with modern antibiotics, it is crucial to take preventative measures to avoid getting infected in the first place.
In rural parts of the West, such as New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado, plague infections continue to occur. 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, 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.