Human Plague Confirmed in New Mexico

Faith Castro
June 28, 2017

Two new cases of the human plague have been confirmed in Sante Fe County, New Mexico, according to health officials.

According to the New Mexico Department of Health, a 52-year-old woman and a 62-year-old woman found out that they contracted plague.

A 63-year-old woman contracted the plague earlier this month. All patients infected with the illness live in Santa Fe County and were hospitalized.

NMDOH conducted environmental investigations around their homes to try and find risks to family members and neighbors.

Plague is carried by rodents and their fleas, and most often, the disease is transmitted to humans through fleabites. Symptoms of the plague include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache and weakness, according to NMDOH. Plague can be present in fleas that infest wild rodents in Santa Fe County, including the city limits of Santa Fe, and several other New Mexico counties.

There are seven cases of the plague on average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fleas are one of the most common insect carriers of the human plague.

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The Department of Health is warning residents to take precautions to reduce exposure to carriers of plague.

Surprisingly, plague can be treated with antibiotics.

A prairie dog transferred from the Santa Fe Municipal Airport to Albuquerque bit and infected a Bernalillo man last summer, one of four human plague cases in the state in 2016. Their diagnoses make them the second and third cases of the disease being found in the state this year.

The plague, which is caused by a type of bacteria called Yersinia pestis, is perhaps best known for killing millions of people in Europe in the 1300s, in a pandemic called the Black Death. That was out of a total of 16 cases, the largest spike in human plague in the USA since 2006.

In 2015, there was an increase in USA cases, with 16 reported and even fourth deaths.

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