A ranch dog from Quay County is the first plague case of 2019 in New Mexico, health officials report.

Image/Arkyan via wikimedia commons

The dog has recovered from his illness with treatment from his veterinarian.

Plague is an infectious disease of animals and humans that is caused by the bacteria called Yersinia pestis. These bacteria are usually transmitted through the bite of an infected flea. Personal pets can also be exposed after eating an infected animal after hunting or scavenging it.

Humans can contract plague by direct contact with the tissues of infected animals, including rodents, wildlife and pets and, rarely, by inhaling the coughed droplets from a pet sick with the disease.

“Plague can be deadly for pets and people if not promptly treated with antibiotics,” said NMDOH Cabinet Secretary for the Department of Health Kathy Kunkel. “We encourage pet owners to discuss with their veterinarians the best way to protect their animals from fleas.”

In addition, the Department of Health recommends the following steps to avoid plague:

  • Avoid sick or dead rodents and rabbits, and their nests and burrows.
  • Clean up areas near the home where rodents could live, such as woodpiles, brush or junk piles, outbuildings, sheds and abandoned vehicles.
  • Since pets who enjoy the outdoors can inadvertently carry infected fleas home, it is recommended that they be on a flea prevention product year-round.
  • Prevent pets from roaming and hunting.
  • Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian.
  • See your doctor about any unexplained illness involving a sudden and high fever and be sure to describe to your provider if you’ve had contact with fleas, sick animals or rodents.
  • Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home.
  • Don’t leave your pet’s food and water where rodents and wildlife can get to it.

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 or on other parts of the body. 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.