Case of human plague confirmed in Oregon, possibly infected by pet cat

The bubonic plague spreads to humans and animals through a bite from an infected flea or by contact with an animal that has the disease.

DESCHUTES COUNTY, Ore. - Health officials have confirmed a case of human plague in an Oregon resident who was likely infected by their cat.

Fortunately, the county said, the infection was caught early and treated in the earlier stages of the disease. Left untreated, the bubonic plague can progress into a bloodstream or lung infection.

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


The bubonic plague spreads from humans to animals through a bite from an infected flea or contact with an animal that has the disease.

Symptoms of the plague

Symptoms of plague usually begin two to eight days after exposure. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches
  • Visibly swollen lymph nodes

"Plague is rare in Oregon, with the last case reported in 2015," the county said in a news release. "The most common animals to carry plague in Central Oregon are squirrels and chipmunks, but mice and other rodents can also carry the disease." 

Tips to prevent the spread of plague include:

  • Avoid all contact with rodents and their fleas
  • Keep pets on a leash when outdoors and protect them with flea control products
  • Discourage your cat's hunting of rodents if possible
  • Remove food, woodpiles, and other attractants for rodents around homes and outbuildings
  • Do not camp, sleep, or rest near animal burrows or areas where dead rodents are observed
  • Refrain from feeding squirrels, chipmunks, or other wild rodents in campgrounds and picnic areas
  • Wear long pants tucked into boot tops to reduce exposure to fleas