By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

New Mexico state health officials reported the first human case of bubonic plague in the state this year Friday.

The patient – a resident of Torrance County – is being treated in a local hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.

This is the second human plague case of 2021 in the US.

The person was most likely exposed to flea bites brought home by a pet. An environmental investigation will take place at the person’s home to look for ongoing risk to immediate family members, neighbors and others in the surrounding community.

“This case is a reminder that even during a pandemic, other infectious diseases can still be a threat,” said Acting Secretary David R. Scrase, MD. “Plague cases are routinely diagnosed among animals – and sometimes passed on to humans.”

Plague is a bacterial disease (Yersinia pestis) of wildlife, mainly rodents, and is usually transmitted to humans and pets through the bites of infected fleas. One way for humans to become infected with plague is by sharing a bed with pets that may be carrying infected fleas.

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In addition to fever, symptoms of plague in humans include sudden onset of chills, headache, and weakness. In most cases there is a painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck areas. Plague symptoms in cats and dogs are fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. There may be swelling in the lymph nodes under the jaw.

With prompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment, the fatality rate in people and pets can be greatly reduced.

There were four human plague cases in 2020, one in a 29-year-old man from Rio Arriba County that was fatal, one in a 64-year-old man from Santa Fe County who recovered, and two in Torrance County, one in a 37-year-old man who recovered and one in a 57-year-old female who did not survive. There was one human plague case in 2019, in a 72-year-old man from Torrance County who survived.

In recent decades, an average of seven human plague cases have been reported each year in the United States.

Most human cases in the United States occur in two regions:

  • Northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, and southern Colorado
  • California, southern Oregon, and far western Nevada