Featured Story▶️ Central Oregon plague case: How rare is it and how can...

▶️ Central Oregon plague case: How rare is it and how can you prevent it?

▶️ Central Oregon plague case: How rare is it and how can you prevent it?

The announcement Wednesday that Deschutes County had confirmed a case of human plague has many people asking how it happened and how it the disease is contracted.

It’s believed the person contracted the disease from their pet cat.

Bend Veterinary Clinic Medical Director Dr. Byron Maas says cats are susceptible carriers of the plague, especially during the winter.

“The cats catch rodents and being involved in that situation any time that you have the potential for exposure with cats and rodents, then there’s the potential might come in contact with plague,” Maas said.

RELATED: Central Oregon resident diagnosed with plague; no other cases identified

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been an average of seven human plague cases each year in the U.S. over the past few decades.

“It’s rare. There are ways to prevent it. Things you can do such as put your animals on flea medication to prevent flea infestation. Obviously, you can protect yourself by not handling dead animals when you’re on a hike or on a walk,” Oregon Public Health Veterinarian Dr. Emilio Debess said.

“There are multiple ways you can get the plague. One of them is a flea bite. The other one is an exposure, like an open wound, with the plague organism, the bacteria that goes into your skin,” he added.

Mass said the public shouldn’t be too concerned with the Deschutes County case.

“It’s something that we want to be vigilant about. It’s not something we have a huge concern of in Central Oregon. It’s more in the southwest. We know that it’s out there and the primary species we have to watch out for are gold-mantled ground squirrels. The ground squirrel population carries the flea that has the bacteria that causes the disease,” Maas said.

Symptoms of plague in humans include sudden onset of fever, nausea, weakness, chills, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes.

The plague is rarely fatal in humans. But if not diagnosed early, the plague can infect the bloodstream or lungs, making it more severe and difficult to treat, the county said. 

Debess says the infected cat was killed by the disease.

The last known case in Oregon was in 2015, the county said, citing the Oregon Health Authority

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