Oregon Officials Report Confirmed Case Of Bubonic Plague

The same disease that wiped out as much as half of Europe’s population in the 14th century has reportedly been confirmed in one U.S. state.

According to Dr. Richard Fawcett, the health officer for Deschutes County, Oregon, one patient has tested positive for bubonic plague, which the individual is believed to have acquired via an infected cat.

“All close contacts of the resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness,” Fawcett said.

County officials offered additional details about the plague, which had not been reported in the state since 2015, as well as its symptoms.

Patients generally begin displaying symptoms between two and eight days after being exposed to an infected animal and can experience swollen lymph nodes, nausea, fever, weakness, muscle aches and chills.

“If not diagnosed early, bubonic plague can progress to septicemic plague (bloodstream infection) and/or pneumonic plague (lung infection),” a county statement added. “These forms of plague are more severe and difficult to treat.”

In the recently confirmed case, however, the patient was diagnosed early and the general population is not believed to be at risk.

“No additional cases of plague have emerged during the communicable disease investigation,” officials noted.

In order to reduce the risk of contracting bubonic plague, experts recommend avoiding any contact with rodents, ensuring pets are always on a leash or otherwise not allowed to approach rodents, abstaining from sleeping outdoors in the vicinity of dead rodents and wearing long pants and insect repellent to minimize exposure to fleas.

Additionally, campers are advised not to feed wild animals and to store their food in containers that rodents cannot open.

The case of bubonic plague came amid increased concern about the possible spread of another serious disease in America. 

Brazil has reported a troubling spike in the number of dengue fever cases, with health officials in that country predicting more than 4.2 million cases by the end of 2024. To put that number in perspective, it is more than all of the 42 pan-American nations reportedly last year combined.

Authorities warn that the disease is likely to spread to the U.S. — first in Puerto Rico and then across the Southwest. 

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