Health officials in New Mexico are reporting another case of human plague, this time in a Bernalillo County man.
The 65-year-old unnamed man is the second case in the state so far this year. In July, a 52-year-old Santa Fe County woman was the first case and fatality from plague in New Mexico in 2015.
Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis. It is found in animals throughout the world, most commonly rats but other rodents like ground squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, rabbits and voles. Fleas typically serve as the vector of plague. Human cases have been linked to the domestic cats and dogs that brought infected fleas into the house.
People can also get infected through direct contact with an infected animal, through inhalation and in the case of pneumonic plague, person to person.
Yersinia pestis is treatable with antibiotics if started early enough.
There are three forms of human plague; bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic.
Bubonic plague is the most common form. In this form, the bacteria enter the body through the bite of an infected flea or rodent. Here the bacteria infect the lymphatic system. After a few days to week, the person will experience fever, chills, weakness, and swollen lymph glands. These are called buboes. Untreated bubonic plague is fatal about half the time.
Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today