The New Mexico Department of Health is reporting ten cases of plague and 19 cases of tularemia in dogs and cats in multiple counties in 2016. In addition, recent rabbit die offs due to tularemia have been confirmed in the Santa Fe and Eldorado areas of Santa Fe County. Confirmatory testing was conducted at the Department’s Scientific Laboratory Division.
Plague positive pets come from the following counties: Rio Arriba, Santa Fe, Sandoval, Los Alamos, Torrance, and Taos counties. Environmental investigations were conducted at each site to look for ongoing risk to others in the surrounding area. Dogs and cats have also tested positive for tularemia in Bernalillo, Santa Fe, Sandoval, and Los Alamos counties.
“Plague and tularemia activity usually picks up in the spring and early summer in New Mexico, so it is important to take precautions to avoid rodents and their fleas which can expose you to these potentially deadly diseases,” said Department of Health Secretary Designate Lynn Gallagher.
Plague and tularemia are both bacterial diseases of rodents and rabbits and are generally transmitted to humans through the flea bites (plague) and deer fly bites (tularemia). They can also be transmitted by direct contact with infected animals, including rodents, wildlife and pets.
“We are seeing recent die offs of rabbits in several areas of New Mexico from both plague and tularemia,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, public health veterinarian for the Department of Health. “People can be exposed to plague when pets bring infected fleas back into the home, by caring for a sick pet without proper precautions, or by contact with rodents or fleas outdoors. In addition, exposure to tularemia can occur from bites from deer flies or handling infected animals.”