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The Black Death Returns to Oregon: A Rare Bubonic Plague Case Traced Back to a Cat


Feb 13, 2024
Bubonic Plague Case Confirmed in Oregon

In recent years, Oregon has seen its first case of bubonic plague in eight years. This was discovered in Deschutes County and traced back to a resident who was likely infected by their pet cat. The county’s Health Services Officer, Dr. Richard Fawcett, revealed that all close contacts of the infected resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness. The disease is generally spread through a bite from an infected flea or contact with an infected animal. Human-to-human transmission is rare and the Oregon case was identified early and the person was treated swiftly, according to officials.

Bubonic plague, also known as the Black Death, has a long history of causing millions of deaths in Europe from 1347 to 1351. However, with modern antibiotics, the disease is now easily treatable. If not treated quickly, it can result in serious illness and even death. Although it’s less common nowadays, plague infections still occur in rural parts of the West such as New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado. 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 or chipmunks or other wild rodents. Symptoms of the disease in humans usually appear between two to eight days after exposure to an infected animal or flea and can include fever, nausea, weakness, chills

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