New Mexico health officials are reporting three human cases of the bacterial infection, tularemia, in Bernalillo County, The patients, a 71-year-old man, a 39-year-old man and a 42-year-old woman, who have all recovered, contracted the disease via deer fly bites.

Counties of New Mexico
New Mexico map/US Government

Three other cases in the state occurred in a 35-year-old woman from Sandoval County, a 59-year-old woman from San Juan County who was bitten by her infected cat, and a 51-year-old man from Los Alamos County. These individuals were hospitalized but have recovered. There have also been 43 cases of tularemia this year in dogs and cats, with pets from Bernalillo, Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Taos, and Torrance counties.

“Tularemia can cause serious illness in both people and pets so I would encourage people around the state to follow precautions similar to reducing risk to plague,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary, Retta Ward, MPH. “People can get tularemia if they handle infected animals such as rabbits or rodents or are bitten by infected ticks or deer flies.”

In 2014 there were 5 human cases of tularemia in New Mexico, a 65-year-old woman from Bernalillo County, a 78-year-old man and a 70-year-old woman both from San Juan County, a 66-year-old man from Lincoln County and a 69-year-old woman from Sandoval County.  All 5 individuals were hospitalized and recovered.

In addition, officials have confirmed plague in a Santa Fe area dog, which was likely exposed to plague by infected rodents and their fleas while walking with its owner along the Santa Fe River between Frenchy’s Field and Siler.

“The increased vegetation and in some areas construction debris along the Santa Fe River can provide lots of rodent harborage,” said Department of Health public health veterinarian Paul Ettestad. “It is especially important if you walk your pets in these areas to take precautions to avoid rodents and their fleas which can expose people to plague. Pets that are allowed to roam and hunt can bring infected fleas from dead rodents back into the home, putting household members at risk.”

There has been one human case of plague in New Mexico in 2015 to date, a fatal case in a woman from Santa Fe County.

Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today

Follow @bactiman63

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