Barn cat in Prineville infected by the plague | OregonLive.com A barn cat in Prineville is being treated for an infectious disease associated with the Middle Ages: bubonic plague. Emilio DeBess, Oregon's public health veterinarian, said the 6-year-old cat, named Meow, was brought into a veterinarian in Prineville at the end of May with an abscessed lymph node on its neck and an elevated fever. The vet, worried about the symptoms, alerted DeBess and sent a sample of the cat's lymph node to the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at Oregon State University. Sure enough, Meow had the plague, a disease that has infected wild animals such as squirrels and rats in New Mexico, Arizona, California and Colorado but is rarely seen in Oregon or Washington. The only recent case of a wild animal in Oregon involved mule deer in Grant County in 2005. The plague is carried by fleas, which often infect mice and rats but can bite people and pets as well. DeBess said that since 1995, only three people in Oregon have been infected. Two of those cases -- a mother and daughter in Lakeview -- got sick last year. Their dog was infected as well but the husband was not sick. Still, those two cases grabbed DeBess' attention. "That's a change from what we've seen in the past," he said. "We're keeping an eye on what's going on." The other case involved a woman in Bend in 1995 and her two cats. All three people recovered. So did the cats and the dog and Meow is also on his way to a full recovery. Meow's owners did not get sick, DeBess said. Early detection of the infection and treatment with antibiotics is critical. Untreated, the plague can be fatal. Cats are especially susceptible, DeBess said. Although dogs can become infected, they're what's known as sentinel animals in that they don't show any symptoms. Plague symptoms usually appear one to four days after exposure and include fever, chills, headache, swollen lymph nodes, abdominal pain and pneumonia. DeBess said this latest case should not cause panic but push people towards prevention. "This is a reminder to use flea treatment and to watch for illnesses that we might not normally think of," he said. Check with your vet on the best flea treatments for your pets. People can guard against flew bites with insect repellent. Additional measures may be necessary in areas rife with rodents, including tucking pant cuffs into socks. Obviously, avoid contact with mice and rats. And if you -- or your pets get sick -- seek medical help.