Santa Fe, NM (KTSM) — The New Mexico Department of Health announced Friday a the first fatal case of the plague in Bernalillo County in 2013. Health Department officials performed confirmatory testing on the 80-year-old man at their scientific laboratory. This is the fourth human case of plague in New Mexico and in the U.S. this year.
“The Department of Health will work with health care providers and others close to the patient to determine if they have been exposed to plague and require preventive treatment,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “As winter approaches, it’s important for families to keep wood piles – where rodents can live -- as far away from your home as possible.”
Plague is a bacterial disease of rodents and is typically 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.
“People living in areas known to have plague should ensure that their dogs and cats are treated year-round with flea control. This will help prevent domestic animals from bringing plague infected fleas into the home,” said Dr. Paul Smith with the City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department.
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.
The first three human plague cases in New Mexico this year were in a 15-year-old boy and a 11-year-old-girl who were both from Torrance County, east of Albuquerque; and a 52-year-old man from Santa Fe County. All three have since recovered from their illness.