Oregon health officials confirm plague case

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The Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division said late last week that a case of bubonic plague has been confirmed in Crook County.

Health officials said the patient, a teen female, is thought to have been infected from a flea bite during a hunting trip near Heppner in Morrow County on Oct. 18 and was taken to a hospital in Bend three days later after becoming ill. The individual remains in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

"Many people think of the plague as a disease of the past, but it's still very much present in our environment, particularly among wildlife," Emilio DeBess, state public health veterinarian in the Public Health Division's Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section, said. "Fortunately, plague remains a rare disease, but people who may come in contact with wildlife still need to take precautions to keep it that way."

It is recommended that people avoid contact with wildlife, and they should not feed wildlife in campground or picnic areas. Any contact with sick or deceased animals should be avoided. The Oregon Health Authority also recommends that precautions be taken to protect pets from fleas.

Plague is a rare disease in Oregon and is treatable with antimicrobials if caught early. The report said there have been eight cases of plague in Oregon since 1995.

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