A woman in Wyoming caught a rare but serious case of the pneumonic plague from coming in contact with a pet cat.
Although considered a thing of the past, the plague continues to exist in various parts of the world. In recent decades, parts of Africa, Asia, and areas of the western United States have all recorded cases of the disease. The United States reports an average of seven human plague cases every year. The majority of the cases occur in northern Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico. Now, for the first time since 2008, the state of Wyoming has reported a case of human plague.
On 15th September, the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) reported the detection of pneumonic plague in a resident of northern Fremont County. The unnamed woman had reportedly caught the disease from an infected pet cat. It is unclear as to how the woman is doing at the moment. However, health officials are tracing contacts and notifying her close contacts of ways to prevent an illness.
Pneumonic Plague – Rare, But Serious
The plague-causing bacteria, Yersinia pestis commonly exists in rodents and is transmitted to humans through flea bites. However, often at times rodents or fleas can also transmit the bacteria to other animals such as cats and dogs. According to the CDC, cats are highly susceptible to plague and cause an infection in their owners. The disease typically transmits through bites, scratches, exposure to fluids, or inhaling of infectious droplets.
Plague can present in three forms: bubonic, pneumonic, and septicemic. Bubonic plague is the most common form and causes swollen lymph nodes called buboes. Humans catch the disease through flea bites. If left untreated, it can develop into a septicemic plague. Along with fever, chills and internal bleeding, fingers and toes can also turn black in infected individuals.
On the other hand, pneumonic plague is the rarest, but most serious form of the disease. Moreover, it is the only plague that can spread from person to person through infected air droplets. Along with pneumonia, the individual can also develop chest pain and watery or bloody mucus.
Although a serious illness, plague is easily treated with commonly available antibiotics. However, the earlier the person receives the treatment, the greater the prognosis. Furthermore, post-exposure antibiotics can also be given to people who have come in contact with pneumonic plague patients.
Source: Wyoming Department of Health