A first case of human plague in Oregon

A first case of human plague in Oregon

Although Oregon had been free from human plague for more than eight years, a resident was recently infected with the disease. Update on this matter.

While no cases of plague have been reported recently in Oceania or Europe, the first case of bubonic plague has been recorded in Oregon, a coastal state of the United States located in the Pacific Northwest.

A potentially infested cat

According to the investigation carried out by the Deschutes County Health Services, the person may have been infected by their pet cat (which appeared to be unwell), which could have been bitten by an infected flea, carrier of the Yersinia pestis bacteria.

Fortunately, this case of bubonic plague appears to be isolated.

Dr. Richard Fawcett, Deschutes County health officer, said there was no significant risk to other residents and that it would be “very surprised” if other cases occur.

The patient reportedly developed a cough

While symptoms of the plague may include fever, nausea, general weakness, chills, muscle pain, and/or swollen lymph nodes called “buboes,” the infected person in Deschutes County would have developed a cough, upon arrival at the hospital. This could indicate a progression of the disease towards pneumonic plague, a more deadly and more easily contagious variety of plague.

Fortunately, in this patient’s case, the disease was identified at an early stage, before the infection developed into sepsis, allowing medical professionals to treat both the man and the cat in time.

The resident also “very well answered“to the antibiotic treatment which had been administered to him to treat the infection. The latter would have started”in the lymph node“, specifies Dr Fawcett.

Plague: advice from American authorities to prevent its spread

If this patient’s case remains isolated and not very serious; plague can be very serious in humans – the case fatality rate is 30% to 60% for the bubonic form and it is almost always fatal in its pulmonary form if left untreated. The American health authorities therefore encourage the population to adopt good actions to protect themselves:

  • Contact with rodents (sick, injured or dead) and fleas should be avoided;
  • Animals must be kept on a leash;
  • To keep rodents away, food and wood piles around a home must be removed;
  • Camping near animal burrows must be prohibited;
  • Squirrels and/or other wild rodents should not be fed, especially in public areas;
  • When walking, long pants tucked into boots should be preferred;
  • Finally, bug spray on socks and pant cuffs can be helpful in reducing exposure to fleas.