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Rare case of bubonic plague identified in the United States

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Rare case of bubonic plague identified in the United States

A case of bubonic plague in a human was recently identified in the United States, in the state of Oregon. The infected person is currently under treatment and was probably infected by his cat. Bubonic plague is a rare event in a developed country and although there are treatments available, the disease remains dangerous.

The patient lives in Deschutes County, in the northwestern United States. He is currently being treated and was probably infected by his cat. “All close contacts of the resident and his pet have been contacted and given medications to prevent the disease,” Dr. Richard Fawcett, Deschutes County health officer, said when the case was made known last week.

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Infectious pathology

Plague is an infectious disease of bacterial origin that is still widespread in many parts of the world, including in some regions of industrialized countries. It is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, which normally hosts parasitic fleas of rodents, rats, some species of squirrels and prairie dogs. In some cases, fleas can also infect pets such as cats.

Normally, Yersinia circulates among these species without causing high mortality rates, and therefore these animals are essentially long-term infectious reserves. Occasionally, an epidemic can also kill large numbers of rodents, and fleas, in search of new hosts, also transmit to humans, spreading the disease.

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What is bubonic plague

Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague and generally occurs following the bite of infected fleas or by direct contact between infected material and lesions on a person’s skin. A typical manifestation of this form is the development of buboes, inflamed enlargements of the lymphatic glands, followed by fever, headache, chills and weakness. In this form the plague is not transmitted from person to person.

Arterial hypotension, tachycardia, toxemia and shock are also frequent. The patient may be agitated, delirious, confused, and uncoordinated.

How to treat it

To date there is no vaccine against the plague, so it is not possible to provide preventive treatment for this disease. It therefore becomes essential to recognize the symptoms quickly and intervene within the first few hours of their appearance.

If diagnosed within the first 24 hours of the onset of symptoms, plague can be successfully treated with the administration of antibiotics (streptomycin, tetracyclines, gentamicin, chloramphenicol and doxycycline). If not adequately treated, bubonic plague is associated with high mortality (up to 50%).

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