Is Bubonic plague contagious and is it treatable? All you need to know as Oregon reports first ever case since 2015

Oregon reports first ever case of Bubonic plague since 2015. (Image via )
Oregon reports first ever case of Bubonic plague since 2015. (Image via )

Oregon health officials have recently informed the public about the first case of Bubonic plague since 2015.

Deschutes County Health Services announced in a news release last week that a resident was infected with the disease. No additional cases have emerged in Deschutes County so far

Health officials said that the resident, whose identity has not yet been disclosed, likely got infected by their symptomatic house cat.

Bubonic plague, historically known as the Black Death, spreads to humans mostly by infected fleas latching on to rodents.

Yersinia pestis, a plague bacillus, enters the body through a flea bite and travels to a lymph node from the lymphatic system. The bacillus replicates itself, causing inflammation of the lymph node.

As per Cleveland Clinic, cats are vulnerable to the disease, as they can contract it by eating an already infected rodent. These cats can pass the infection to their owners or veterinarians through body fluids, like iinfected respiratory droplets from sneezing or coughing. However, it does not transmit from person to person.


Antibiotics are commonly used to treat the bubonic plague if it's diagnosed early.

If left untreated, though, it may turn lethal, as there's no known vaccine for the infection. However, as a preventive measure, reducing one’s exposure to rats, mice, squirrels and other potentially infected animals is advised.

Oregon health officials treated the recent case of Bubonic plague at its earlier stage

Deschutes County health officer, Dr. Richard Fawcett said in a press release on Wednesday:

“All close contact of the resident and their pet have been contacted and provided medication to prevent illness.”

Fawcett added that the cat involved in the latest case was severely ill and was suffering a draining collection of pus on its body, indicating quite a substantial infection.

The cat owner’s infection began in a lymph node. By the time the individual was hospitalized, the infection had spread to their bloodstream. However, Dr. Richard Fawcett said that the patient responded to the antibiotic treatment really well.

Health officials assured that there's little risk of the plague spreading in the community, as the case was diagnosed and treated in one of its earlier stages.

However, the plague couls eventually become severe and difficult to treat, where the infection spreads to the bloodstream. In some cases, it can also spread to the lungs.


Symptoms of the plague start developing in humans typically between two to eight days after exposure.

They can include nausea, sudden onset of high fever with chills, weakness, muscle aches around the arms, legs and abdomen, and visibly large and swollen lymph nodes that leak pus.

In Central Oregon, health officials warned that chipmunks and squirrels are the most common animals that carry the bubonic plague. The last time a human case of the plague was reported in Oregon was in 2015.

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Edited by Amrita Das