The New Mexico Department of Health is reporting a case of plague in a 43-year-old woman from Rio Arriba County who is currently hospitalized. Confirmatory testing was conducted at the Department’s Scientific Laboratory Division. The first plague case in New Mexico in 2014 was reported in April in a 57-year-old man from Torrance County who is still recovering. An environmental investigation will take place at the woman’s home to look for ongoing risk to others in the surrounding area.
“Plague activity in New Mexico is usually highest during the summer months, so it is especially important now to take precautions to avoid rodents and their fleas which can expose you to plague,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “This person was most likely exposed to plague when her dogs brought infected fleas back into the home.”
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 die offs of rabbits, squirrels, pack rats and various rodents in several areas of New Mexico from both plague and tularemia,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, public health veterinarian for the Department of Health. “Pets that are allowed to roam and hunt can bring infected fleas from dead rodents back into the home, putting you and your children at risk.”
In addition to the two New Mexico plague cases this year, neighboring Colorado has reported four cases. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page
According to the CDC, Plague is an infectious disease that affects rodents, certain other animals and humans. It is caused by the Yersinia pestis bacteria. These bacteria are found in many areas of the world, including the United States.
People most commonly acquire plague when they are bitten by a flea that is infected with the plague bacteria. People can also become infected from direct contact with infected tissues or fluids while handling an animal that is sick with or that has died from plague. Finally, people can become infected from inhaling respiratory droplets after close contact with cats and humans with pneumonic plague.
There were four human plague cases in 2013 with one fatality, one human plague case 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.