Oregon cat owner becomes state’s first bubonic plague case in nearly a decade

A smear of the bubonic plague illness

DESCHUTES COUNTY, Oreg. — The first case of human bubonic plague in Oregon since 2015 has been confirmed, and health officials say it likely came from a pet cat.

It happened in Deschutes County and health officials were able to identify the cat as the source because the animal was also showing symptoms.

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

Pet cats are highly susceptible to plague. The plague can be spread through a flea bite or by contact with an infected rodent before it’s then passed on to humans.

Symptoms in humans usually begin within two to eight days and could include fever, muscle aches, nausea, chills and swollen lymph nodes. If not diagnosed early, the disease can infect the bloodstream or lungs.

While very rare, human cases of the plague do still occur. The last case in Washington was in 1984 when a trapper was exposed while skinning a bobcat.