Crook County Health Department officials said Tuesday they have been notified that the sick cat that bit a Crook County man in early June has tested positive for plague at the CDC laboratory in Fort Collins, Colo.
Paul Gaylord became critically ill with the plague after being bitten by while trying to help his sick outdoor cat, Charlie. While he remains hospitalized, the man’s condition is improving and he is no longer in the Intensive Care Unit, officials said.
“While this result does not come as a surprise, having the source of the infection confirmed through laboratory testing is part of doing a thorough disease investigation,” said Karen Yeargain, Crook County's communicable disease coordinator.
“It allows us to be accurate in providing guidance to the public on how to decrease their chance of being exposed to the plague bacteria,” she added
Rodents are the usual hosts for plague; their fleas transmit it to other rodents and to cats or humans when they bite.
Although rare, plague can also happen from direct contact with rodents or cats that are ill with the plague.
“While human illness from plague is uncommon in Oregon, it does happen,“ said Dr. Emilio DeBess, Oregon State Public Health Veterinarian.
“Three steps to decrease your risk of being exposed to the plague are 1.) decrease the rodent population in and around your home and property, 2.) use flea prevention treatments on your outdoor cats and dogs, and 3.) use caution any time you are handling ill appearing animals to prevent bites, scratches or contact with saliva or wound drainage.”