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Oregon's first case of human plague in 8 years likely came from a pet cat



Oregon's first case of human plague in 8 years likely came from a pet cat​

The owner’s infection likely started out in a lymph node and progressed to the bloodstream, a county health officer said.
A domestic cat walks along the cornice of a house next to a forest in India on Nov. 10, 2023.

Pets might carry fleas into the home, which then bite humans.Soumyabrata Roy / NurPhoto via Getty Images file
Health officials announced this week that a resident of Deschutes County — a rural part of Oregon — was diagnosed with plague, marking the state's first human case in more than eight years. The person was likely infected by their pet cat, who had developed symptoms, according to Deschutes County Health Services.

Humans are most commonly exposed to plague from the bites of fleas carrying Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that causes the disease. Household pets can get also infected if they hunt rodents infected with plague or are similarly bitten by an infected flea.

Pets can then transfer the infection to humans via tissue or bodily fluids, such as respiratory droplets from cough or sneezes. Alternatively, they might carry home fleas that in turn bite humans.

Cats are particularly susceptible to plague because their bodies have a hard time clearing the infection and they're more likely than some other pets to chase and capture rodents.