According to news reports, a Wyoming woman has been diagnosed as having pneumonic plague. This rare disease is likely she contracted from her pets cats.
According to the Wyoming Department of Health, health officials reported that they found a rare but serious case of plague in a person in northern Fremont County in Wyoming. The county is south of Yellowstone National Park. According to the statement, the person may have contracted the disease from "contact with sick pet cat,"
Related: 11 ways that your pet can make it difficult for you to get well
Plague is caused by the bacterium Yersinia Pestis. It is most well-known for causing the Black Death in Europe during the 1300s. Although the infection is still quite common today, it is rare. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are seven cases of plague in the United States each year. This disease is confined to the west U.S., and most often reported in New Mexico and Arizona. According to the statement, this woman's case is the seventh case of plague in Wyoming since 1978. It also marks the first case reported in Wyoming since 2008.
Flea bites, contact with infected animals, their tissues, or bodily fluids, can lead to plague infection. According to the CDC, more than 80% of cases of plague in the United States are caused by bubonic plague. This form of plague is spread via flea bites. It causes swelling of lymph nodes and "buboes."
This woman's case is unusual in that she was infected by pneumonic plague, which is the most severe and rarest form of the disease. According to the CDC, it's the only type of the disease that can be spread from person-to-person.
Inhaling infectious droplets spread by an animal or person with pneumonic disease can lead to pneumonic paralysis. If not treated quickly, people can develop pneumonic disease from other forms, such as bubonic plague.
According to the CDC, cats are "highly vulnerable" to plague and can be a source of infection in humans. The agency stated that cats with pneumonic plague can pose a serious plague risk to their owners, veterinarians, and anyone who comes in close contact with them due to the possibility of aerosolization.
Although antibiotics can be used to treat plague, it is best to start treatment as soon as possible to avoid complications that could lead, such as death. The death rate from plague in the United States was 66% before antibiotics were invented. Today, it is about 11% according to the CDC.
The Wyoming Department of Health didn't release any further information about the patient nor her current condition. Gizmodo was told by a health official that the woman is experiencing severe symptoms.
According to the statement, officials are notifying anyone who was exposed to the patient to ensure they receive "post-exposure” antibiotics to prevent infection.
Original publication on Live Science