Plague: Central Ore. man contracts rare disease

PRINEVILLE, Ore. (AP) — A central Oregon man in his 50s is in critical condition at a Bend hospital after a form of plague infected his blood, according to a Crook County health official.

The disease can spread through contact with a sick animal or a bite from an infected flea. The man, who has not been identified, had contact with a sick cat.

Plague is rare in Oregon. Only three human cases have been diagnosed statewide since 1995.

It is treatable with antibiotics if caught early, said county health official Karen Yeargain. Pet owners should treat their animals for fleas, she told KTVZ.

"What happens most of the time is our pets are allowed to go outside," she said. "They roam free, go out in the field and they catch the mice and either come in contact with a sick rodent or get their fleas on them."

There are three types of plague: bubonic, which infects the lymph nodes; pneumonic, which infects the lungs; and septicemic, which infects the blood. The man's infection is septicemic, Yeargain said, which causes a "very significant generalized illness."

Symptoms of the plague in humans, which typically appear within four days, include fever, chills and a bloody or watery cough. In pets, plague typically presents itself with enlarged lymph nodes under the jaw, as well as fever and tiredness.

"The plague is something that is always around. In some areas of the country, they have very regular outbreaks in the rodent community," Yeargain said. "Humans don't tend to come in direct contact with it as much here in Oregon, so we don't think about it as much."

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Information from: KTVZ-TV, http://www.ktvz.com/


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.