Oregon cat diagnosed with bubonic plague

Posted: Updated:

PORTLAND, Ore. -- A cat in Prineville, Oregon has been diagnosed with bubonic plague, the fourth case reported in Oregon among people and animals since January of last year.

Christine Stone of the Oregon Health Authority says the cat has been treated with antibiotics and is recovering.

Stone says two people were diagnosed with the bubonic plague last year, and one dog. All survived.

The bacteria that cause the disease are spread to humans from flea bites.

Stone says untreated cases can be fatal, but early treatment with antibiotics cures the infection.

According to the OHA, bubonic plague cases are rare in Oregon and flea treatment for household pets can help prevent its spread.

"Plague is spread to humans through a bite from an infected flea. People can protect themselves, their family members and their pets," said Emilio DeBess, D.V.M., M.P.V.M., Oregon Public Health Division veterinarian. “Using flea treatment on your pets is very important, because your pets can bring fleas into your home. Plague is serious but it is treatable with antibiotics if caught early.”

Dogs cannot develop the disease, but they can carry the infected fleas.

Only three human cases have been diagnosed since 1995 in Oregon and none of the illnesses resulted in deaths. This is the first pet diagnosis in 15 years.

Symptoms typically develop within one to four days after exposure and include fever, chills, headache, weakness and a bloody or watery cough due to infection of the lungs (pneumonia), enlarged, tender lymph nodes, abdominal pain and bleeding into the skin or other organs.

Anyone who thinks they may have the plague is urged to contact their health care provider or a veterinarian if pets or other animals exhibit the symptoms.