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An Oregon Resident Was Diagnosed With A Rare Case Of The Bubonic Plague, And It Is Believed That They Contracted It From Their Pet Cat

Laura Pashkevich - stock.adobe.com - illustrative purposes only, not the actual cat

We live in an era of advanced medicine, where most centuries-old diseases have become relics of the past. That’s why it can be startling to hear that some ancient ailments have made a reappearance in modern times.

For instance, the bubonic plague, which was infamous for its devastating impact throughout history, is back in Oregon for the first time in nine years.

A pet owner in Deschutes County, Oregon, has been diagnosed with a rare case of bubonic plague. They are the first confirmed case of the plague in the state since 2015. Health officials from the Deschutes County Health Services believe that the person caught the disease from their cat.

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

Residents were urged to stay away from rodents and to avoid touching sick, injured, or dead rodents. They should also prohibit their pets from approaching sick or dead rodents or going near rodent burrows.

Luckily, the infection was detected and treated in its early stages, so it poses “little risk” to the community. No other reports of bubonic plague have emerged in the area. However, the case has prompted questions and concerns about how an outbreak of such an ancient disease can occur in today’s world.

The bubonic plague dates back to the Middle Ages and is best known for killing millions of people across Europe. The plague was carried by fleas found on rats. It was first introduced to the United States in 1900 by steamships infested with rats.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, the plague spreads to animals or humans after they are bitten by an infected flea or encounter an animal sick with the disease. Although the plague can be treated and cured with antibiotics, it cannot be completely eradicated.

“The reason why it hasn’t been eliminated is because there’s an animal reservoir. The bacteria can infect animals, and because we can’t treat all animals in the wild, it persists in nature and thus occasionally, causes a limited number of human cases,” explained Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He was not involved in the Oregon case.

Laura Pashkevich – stock.adobe.com – illustrative purposes only, not the actual cat

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