Oregon reports first bubonic plague case in nearly a decade, what is it? - Hindustan Times
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Oregon reports first bubonic plague case in nearly a decade, what is it?

ByShweta Kukreti
Feb 10, 2024 04:19 PM IST

Oregon reported bubonic plague for the first time in nearly a decade, according to officials. The patient was most likely infected by their pet cat.

Oregon reported bubonic plague for the first time in nearly a decade, according to Deschutes County Health Services. The local resident was most likely infected by their pet cat who had displayed symptoms.

Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague and is caused by the bite of an infected flea.(Unsplash)
Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague and is caused by the bite of an infected flea.(Unsplash)

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

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The officials stated that there is no risk to community as the case was diagnosed and treated early.

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What is Bubonic plague?

“Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague and is caused by the bite of an infected flea. Plague bacillus, Yersinia pestis, enters at the bite and travels through the lymphatic system to the nearest lymph node where it replicates itself. The lymph node then becomes inflamed, tense and painful,” the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a statement.

Pets can also contract the plague by biting other infected fleas or by hunting rodents that have been bitten by an infected flea. They can then spread the infection to humans via bodily fluids like respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing, or they can bring fleas home and bite humans.

Antibiotics can be used to treat the plague if it is discovered early. If untreated, it may be lethal as there is no vaccine to treat the plague.

The state last saw a confirmed case of the plague in 2015, when a young girl contracted it from a flea bite while on a hunting expedition.

Since 1995, Oregon has seen just nine human cases of the plague, with no deaths reported.

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Oregon man responded well to antibiotic treatment

According to Fawcett, the cat owner's sickness most likely began in a lymph node. The infection had spread to the bloodstream by the time the owner was admitted to the hospital. The patient, Fawcett said, "responded very well to antibiotic treatment."

He did point out that several medical professionals believed the patient had contracted a cough during his stay at the hospital.

"If we know a patient has the bacteria in the blood, we might decide to be on the safe side," Fawcett said. He added that he would be “very surprised if we see any other cases.”

Every year, the United States witnesses approximately seven cases of human plague, primarily in the rural West. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases are often concentrated in northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, southern Colorado, California, southern Oregon, and western Nevada, NBC News reported.

David Wagner, director of the Biodefense and Disease Ecology Center at Northern Arizona University’s Pathogen and Microbiome Institute, said that "the hotspot is really the Four Corners region" at the borders of Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico.

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