Case Of Bubonic Plague Detected In United States

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Health officials in Deschutes County, Oregon, reported a case of human bubonic plague.

According to reports, health officials said the suspected culprit is a symptomatic domestic house cat.

The case is reportedly the state’s first bubonic plague diagnosis in approximately eight years.

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

From Deschutes County:

Symptoms of plague 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 aches, and/or visibly swollen lymph nodes called buboes.

If not diagnosed early, bubonic plague can progress to septicemic plague (bloodstream infection) and/or pneumonic plague (lung infection). These forms of plague are more severe and difficult to treat. Fortunately, this case was identified and treated in the earlier stages of the disease, posing little risk to the community. No additional cases of plague have emerged during the communicable disease investigation.

According to Oregon Health Authority, plague is rare in Oregon, with the last case reported in 2015. It spreads to humans or animals through a bite from an infected flea or by contact with an animal sick with the disease. The most common animals to carry plague in Central Oregon are squirrels and chipmunks, but mice and other rodents can also carry the disease.


The Oregon case was identified early and the person was treated swiftly, according to officials. They added the case doesn’t pose a significant risk to the community, and no other cases have been reported in the state, according to health officials. The last case of the plague in Oregon was reported in 2015.

Though the plague is infamous for killing more than a third of Europe’s population—about 25 million people—from 1347 to 1351, it’s now easily treatable with modern antibiotics. However, if not treated quickly, the disease can progress to infection in the bloodstream and lungs and cause serious illness and death.

In humans, symptoms usually appear between two to eight days after exposure to an infected animal or flea. Symptoms can include a sudden onset of fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches, and, most commonly, visibly swollen lymph nodes called buboes.

In the U.S. plague infections continue to occur in rural parts of the West—particularly in New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. Between 1900 and 2012, 1006 confirmed or probable human plague cases occurred in the United States, over 80% of which have been the bubonic form. In recent decades, an average of seven human plague cases are reported each year in the U.S., the CDC says, though the number is much higher worldwide.

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Julia Jeni
Julia Jeni
17 days ago

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Last edited 17 days ago by Julia Jeni
16 days ago

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