Skip to comments.Prineville-Area Man Still Critical with Likely Plague
Posted on 06/12/2012 10:29:59 PM PDT by nickcarraway
Crook County Health Officials Say He Was Bitten by Sick Cat
Crook County health officials said Monday they are investigating a probable case of human plague involving a man in his 50s who is being treated at a local hospital. Contacts with the individual have been notified and are receiving preventive antibiotics, officials said. The man reported contact with a sick cat in his neighborhood, they added.
Crook County officials did not identify the man, citing patient confidentiality regulations, but a family member contacted NewsChannel 21, which then learned the Prineville-area man remained in critical condition Tuesday at St. Charles Medical Center-Bend. A family member told us he's been only given 30 percent survival odds at present.
The man was bitten by the cat last week and within 48 hours was taken to a Redmond hospital for treatment. He was then moved to Bend, where he is now fighting for his life. Friends say his organs started shutting down Monday, as they wait to see if antibiotics can get rid of the illness.
Plague is spread to humans or animals through a bite from an infected flea or by contact with an animal sick with the disease.
"People can protect themselves, their family members and their pets," said Karen Yeargain, communicable disease coordinator with the Crook County Health Department.
"Using flea treatment on your pets will prevent your pets from bringing fleas into your home. Plague is serious but it is treatable with antibiotics if caught early." A domestic cat in Crook County tested positive for bubonic plague a year ago.
"For people, it's the cats bringing home the fleas to a household or being in contact with a cat or dog who is actually sick with the plague," Yeargain told NewsChannel 21.
"Almost exactly a year ago, we did have a cat diagnosed with the plague," said Yeargain, "that cat also had septicemic, or bloodstream infection, and that cat did pull through."
"What happens most of the time is our pets that are allowed to outside," said Yeargain. "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."
Now is the season, and people need to take precautions to avoid rodents and their fleas, which can expose them to plague.
Yeargain says the cat initially was termed "stray" because it had been described to officials as one that everyone in the neighborhood fed. But she said Tuesday they have since learned it was a "social and friendly," not feral cat that spent much of its time with the family.
The cat did not survive and its body is being sent to the Centers for Disease Control for testing, Yeargain said, a standard practice when the source is available.
The county is not identifying the specific area where the contact occurred, Yeargain said, noting that "the risk exists throughout the U.S." and "everyone needs to prevent flea exposure for their cats and dogs, especially the cats."
Plague is rare in Oregon. Only three human cases have been diagnosed statewide since Crook Countys last case of plague in 1995.
According to Yeargain, the last Crook County case occurred in a resident who was exposed to plague-infected fleas from household cats that hunted rodents in the fields. Two of three cats in that household also tested positive for plague exposure.
In 2010, two human cases of plague were diagnosed in Lake County. Further investigation revealed that the family dog had also been exposed to plague. In 2011, an additional case with exposures in Lake County was diagnosed. There were no fatalities in humans or household animals in these cases.
Symptoms of plague typically develop within one to four days after exposure and include fever, chills, headache, weakness and a bloody or watery cough due to infection. Three clinical syndromes have been described; bubonic (lymph node infection), septicemic (blood infection), and pneumonic (lung infection).
Bubonic plague is the most common form and is characterized by high temperatures, lethargy and swollen lymph nodes, most commonly in the neck and under the jaw. Infected lymph nodes may spontaneously abscess and drain. In general, people displaying any flu-like symptoms should stay home from school or work to avoid unnecessarily exposing others to their illnesses. People should contact their health care provider if plague is suspected and a veterinarian if pets or other animals exhibit symptoms consistent with the plague. Early treatment for pets and people with appropriate antibiotics is essential to curing plague infections. Untreated plague can be fatal for animals and people. Antibiotics to prevent or treat plague should be used only under the direction of a health care provider. Plague can be passed from fleas feeding on infected wild mammals to pets such as cats and to their human owners. "To protect your pets, avoid allowing them access to areas with fleas or to other pets carrying fleas, and treat your pets for fleas to help prevent this disease," Yeargain said. "Call your local veterinarians for assistance in which products are safe for use in pets, because some treatments may be toxic to your pet." Collin Gillin, D.V.M., Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, reminds people that if anyone observes sick or dead rodents of any kind, to contact the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife veterinarians at 1-866-968-2600.
Some additional steps to prevent flea bites are to wear insect repellant, tuck pant cuffs into socks when in areas heavily occupied by rodents, and avoid contact with wildlife including rodents. Pet owners are encouraged to keep cats indoors. Also, do not handle ill-appearing stray or wild animals.
Health authorities offer the following recommendations to prevent plague:
Avoid sick or dead rodents, rabbits and squirrels, and their nests and burrows. Keep your pets from roaming and hunting. Talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product on your pets. Clean up areas near the house where rodents could live, such as woodpiles, brush piles, junk and abandoned vehicles. Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian. See your doctor about any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever. Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home. Dont leave your pets food and water where mice can get to it. Veterinarians and their staff are at higher risk and should take precautions when seeing suspect animal plague cases.
Prayers for that poor guy’s health.
It’s all across the West here. Imagine being surrounded by a large, thick prairie dog, mouse and ground squirrel population carrying the Plague. And the Army shot probably wore off a long time ago.
“... and the Army shot probably wore off a long time ago.”
Is there a vaccine for the plague? (If so... I just learned something new).
A series of two, hurts too.
Thank you, xone! I really didn’t know that! I just assumed that early treatment of antibiotics was the only possible cure.