Cat owner diagnosed with plague after pet dies from infection

The plague, a disease caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, has reared its head in Deschutes County, Oregon, after a resident was diagnosed with the infection. Health officials believe the individual likely contracted the plague from their pet cat. The cat, however, did not survive the infection and died. On average, seven human plague cases are reported in the U.S. each year, predominantly in rural and semi-rural areas of the Southwest, California, southern Oregon, and western Nevada. The plague bacterium is transmitted via fleas, which can infect various types of rodents. These rodents can then be eaten by cats, or cats can be bitten by the infected fleas, causing infection.

Symptoms of the plague include fever, headaches, chills, weakness, and swollen and painful lymph nodes. The plague can progress into more severe forms, such as septicemic plague, which can result in organ bleeding and tissue death, and pneumonic plague, which can lead to pneumonia and respiratory failure. Fortunately, modern antibiotics are effective in treating the plague. This particular infection was identified and treated early, minimizing any risk to the community.

To prevent the spread of the plague, the health department advises residents to avoid contact with rodents and fleas, keep their pets on a leash outdoors, and prevent pets from hunting rodents, among other precautions. Despite this recent case, health officials have stressed that there is currently no increased risk to the community. Still, cat owners should take precautions to protect their pets from interactions with rodents, especially since cats are more susceptible to picking up rodents. While these warnings are important, this story should not be taken as advice to stop caring for and protecting our pets.

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