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HomeHealth & Medical NewsFirst Case of Bubonic Plague in Oregon Since 2015 Raises Concerns

First Case of Bubonic Plague in Oregon Since 2015 Raises Concerns

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A resident of Deschutes County, Oregon, has been diagnosed with bubonic plague, marking the state’s first confirmed case of this rare bacterial infection since 2015. The individual likely contracted the disease from their cat, triggering swift action from health authorities to contain any potential spread.

Dr. Richard Fawcett, the Deschutes County health officer, stated that all close contacts of the affected resident and their pet have been identified and provided with medication to prevent illness. First-line treatments for plague, such as gentamicin and fluoroquinolones, have been administered, following guidelines from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The infected person received treatment in the early stages of the disease and poses minimal risk to the community, according to health officials. However, this case has reignited discussions about the persistence of plague in the modern era and its potential modes of transmission.

Dr. Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, highlighted the ongoing challenge posed by the disease’s animal reservoir. Plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, can infect animals, particularly rodents like squirrels and chipmunks, which serve as carriers.

Despite its historical notoriety for causing the Black Death pandemic in the Middle Ages, plague remains relatively rare in the United States, with about seven human cases reported annually, primarily in rural areas of the Southwest and Northwest.

Symptoms of bubonic plague typically manifest within two to eight days after exposure and include painful, swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, chills, and weakness. Early diagnosis is crucial to prevent the progression of the disease to more severe forms, such as bloodstream or lung infections.

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Fortunately, advancements in medicine have made plague easily recognizable, diagnosable, and treatable with antibiotics. Dr. Harish Moorjani, an infectious disease specialist at Northwell Health, emphasized the importance of timely medical intervention and urged individuals to seek medical attention if they develop symptoms consistent with the plague.

While the risk of further transmission beyond the initial case in Oregon is deemed low, precautions are advised. Dr. Barouch advised avoiding contact with rodents, fleas, and sick animals to minimize the risk of infection.

Preventive measures, including maintaining good hygiene practices, using flea control for pets, and avoiding handling animal carcasses, can help mitigate the risk of plague transmission, according to health experts.

While a vaccine for Yersinia pestis exists, it is primarily recommended for high-risk individuals, such as scientists working directly with the bacterium. For the general population, maintaining good hygiene and taking rational precautions remain the most effective means of preventing plague infections.

As the situation in Deschutes County underscores, vigilance and prompt medical attention are essential in managing and containing rare infectious diseases like bubonic plague, ensuring the health and safety of communities.

With the potential for more cases of bubonic plague to emerge, public health officials emphasize the importance of continued surveillance, education, and proactive measures to prevent and control the spread of the disease.

This recent case serves as a reminder that despite living in a modern era with advanced medical capabilities, infectious diseases from the past still pose a threat, albeit a manageable one. By remaining vigilant and informed, individuals and communities can effectively mitigate the risks associated with rare diseases like bubonic plague, safeguarding public health and well-being.

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