A Umatilla County man diagnosed with septicemic plague is expected to recover.

 Septicemic plague is extremely rare and not easily transmitted by human contact, said Genni Lehnert-Beers, public health administrator with the Umatilla County Health Department.

Septicemic plague, a blood infection, is most often transmitted by flea bites.

Lehnert-Beers said the man went on a hunting trip in Lake County, where he probably contracted the disease, and became ill about a week after returning home. St. Anthony Hospital staff diagnosed his symptoms and he’s since been moved to a Portland hospital.

“The takeaway is this is not contagious, and he did not contract it in Umatilla County,” Lehnert-Beers said.

The best way to avoid septicemic plague is to use bug repellent in flea-infested areas and tuck pants into socks.

Symptoms of septicemic plague include fever, chills, headache, enlarged lymph nodes and bloody or watery cough.

“Plague is a very uncommon disease,” she said. The septicemic variety is different from the bubonic plague that historically killed millions of Europeans.

Plague can be fatal if not treated with antibiotics. Only three human cases of plague have been diagnosed in Oregon since 1995, and all three recovered, she said.

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