New Mexico Department Of Health Confirms Fatal Human Plague Case

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Bubonic Plague Case

The New Mexico Department of Health has confirmed a fatal case of bubonic plague in a 3-year-boy from the East Mountain area of Bernalillo County.

This is the third case of plague confirmed in New Mexico this year. The first case occurred in late April in a man from San Juan County who recovered, and the second case was in a woman from Torrance County who is still hospitalized.

"Our sympathies go out to this young boy's family and friends," said C. Mack Sewell, the Department's state epidemiologist. "Avoiding sick or dead rodents and teaching your children not to play near rodent nests are two ways to protect yourself from the plague."

The Albuquerque Environmental Health Department and the Department of Health are conducting an environmental investigation at the Bernalillo County boy's residence to determine if there is any ongoing risk to people. "June, July and August are the months when we typically see the highest number of human cases of plague in New Mexico," said Dr. Paul Ettestad, public health veterinarian at the Department of Health.


"The East Mountain area has had a lot of plague activity in the past and could see more of it this year. Everyone should take necessary precautions to prevent their exposure to rodents as part of their regular routine no matter where they live."

Plague, a bacterial disease of rodents, 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. Septicemic plague occurs when the bacteria multiply in the blood.

Most people become ill two to seven days after being infected with the plague bacteria. Symptoms of bubonic plague in humans include fever, painful swollen lymph nodes in the groin, armpit or neck areas, chills, and sometimes headache, vomiting, and diarrhea. Septicemic plague can also present with high fever, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

Symptoms in cats are similar. Fever, lethargy, not eating, and swollen lymph nodes (usually in the neck area) are the most common signs. With prompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment, the fatality rate in people and pets can be greatly reduced.

To prevent cases of plague, the Department of Health recommends: