First case of bubonic plague since 2015 hits Oregon, pet cat confirmed as source

Feb 13, 2024, 6:32 AM

bubonic plague cat...

An orange cat sits in a cage. (Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

(Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

The first case of human bubonic plague in Oregon since 2015 has been confirmed by health officials who claimed the person likely got it from their pet cat.

Deschutes County health officials were able to confirm the cat as the source because the feline was also showing symptoms of the disease.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), patients develop fever, headache, chills, and one or more swollen, painful lymph nodes when inflicted with the bubonic plague. Symptoms start occurring between two and eight days after initial contact. The CDC stated an infected flea bite is the most common way to contract this disease. It’s one of three plagues the CDC racks, with the other two being pneumonic and septicemic plague.

Pet cats in particular are highly susceptible to plague. If not contracted from a flea bite, another common way cats get the plague is through contact with an infected rodent before passing it on to humans.

“All close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness,” Deschutes County Health Officer Dr. Richard Fawcett said in a prepared statement.

More on infectious diseases in WA: Northwest has long and forgotten history of infectious disease outbreaks

Health officials don’t think the public is in danger, and the victim’s close contacts have been given medication to prevent the plague from spreading.

The last known case of the bubonic plague in Washington was reported in 1984 when a trapper got sick after skinning a bobcat. The U.S. averages about seven human plague cases a year, according to the CDC.

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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First case of bubonic plague since 2015 hits Oregon, pet cat confirmed as source