Third case of plague reported in New Mexico
Santa Fe, TX (KTSM) — The New Mexico Department of Health announced today a confirmed case of plague in a 52-year-old man from Santa Fe County.
Confirmatory testing was performed at the Department’s Scientific Laboratory Division.
This is the third human case of plague in New Mexico and in the United States this year.
An environmental investigation will take place at the man’s home to look for ongoing risk to others in the surrounding area.
“Whenever there is a human case of plague the Department takes several steps to ensure the safety of the immediate family, neighbors, and health care providers,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward, MPH.
“We inform neighbors door-to-door about plague found in the area and educate them on reducing their risk. We determine whether individuals close to the patient may also have been exposed to the plague and recommend preventative treatment when necessary.”
The Department’s investigation also includes:
• Alerting physicians and veterinarians that plague is in the area, making sure they contact the Department of Health if they have a suspect case of plague, and offering the services of the Department’s Scientific Laboratory if they need to test for a suspect case of plague in either humans or animals.
• Conducting an environmental investigation at the most likely place of exposure, looking for signs of a plague die-off in rodents, infected fleas in nearby rodent burrows, or evidence of recent intrusion by rodents or fleas into the home, either through holes in the walls or by the family dog or cat.
Plague is a bacterial disease of rodents and is generally transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas, but can also be transmitted by direct contact with infected animals, including rodents, wildlife and pets.
“We are seeing plague activity in several different locations of north-central New Mexico,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, public health veterinarian at the Department of Health. “Everyone needs to be aware of the situation and take precautions to avoid rodents and their fleas.”
To prevent plague, the Department of Health also recommends:
• Keep your pets from roaming and hunting
• Clean up areas near the house where rodents could live, such as woodpiles, brush piles, junk and abandoned vehicles.
• Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian.
• See your doctor about any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever.
• Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home.
• Don’t leave your pet’s food and water where mice can get to it.
Symptoms of plague in humans include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, and weakness.
In most cases there is a painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck areas.
Plague symptoms in cats and dogs are fever, lethargy and loss of appetite.
There may be a swelling in the lymph node under the jaw.
With prompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment, the fatality rate in people and pets can be greatly reduced.
Physicians who suspect plague should promptly report to the New Mexico Department of Health.
The first 2 human plague cases in New Mexico this year were in 15-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl, both from Torrance County.
Both have recovered. There was one human plague case in New Mexico in 2012, two human cases of plague in 2011, no cases in 2010, and six human cases of plague in 2009, one of them fatal.
For more information, including fact sheets in English and Spanish, go to the Department of Health’s website at: http://nmhealth.org/ERD/HealthData/plague.shtml