Following the report of the state’s first human plague case of 2017 nearly three weeks ago, health officials in New Mexico have reported two additional human plague cases in Santa Fe County.

Oriental rat flea, Xenopsylla cheopis/CDC

The most recent cases are in 52-year-old and 62-year-old females, health officials note. All three cases required hospitalization. There have been no deaths from plague in 2017.

LISTEN: Plague: An interview with Dr. Paul Ettestad

The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) conducted environmental investigations around the homes of the patients to look for ongoing risk and to ensure the safety of the immediate family and neighbors.

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. Plague can be present in fleas that infest wild rodents in Santa Fe County, including the city limits of Santa Fe, and several other New Mexico counties.

Symptoms of plague in humans include sudden onset of fever, 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 a swelling in the lymph node under the jaw. With prompt diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment, the fatality rate in people and pets can be greatly reduced. Physicians who suspect plague should promptly report to the Department of Health.

In New Mexico, there were four human plague cases in 2016 in Bernalillo, Mora and Rio Arriba counties with no fatalities; and four human plague cases in 2015 in Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties with one fatality.