By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

In the past two weeks, human plague cases have been reported in Jefferson County, Colorado and Navajo County, Arizona.

Counties of New Mexico
New Mexico map/US Government

Today, the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) reports a Santa Fe County man in his 60s has been diagnosed with bubonic plague – the first human plague case in New Mexico in 2020.

While the man recovers at a local hospital, 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 is a reminder that even during a pandemic, other infectious diseases are out that can still put your health at risk,” said Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel. “All New Mexicans need to be aware of the risks for contracting diseases like plague and take the necessary precautions to avoid them.”

Plague is a bacterial disease of wildlife and is generally transmitted to humans and pets through the bites of infected fleas. Pet animals also can be exposed after eating an infected animal.

To prevent plague, the Department of Health recommends that you:

  • Avoid sick or dead rodents and rabbits, and their nests and burrows.
  • Prevent pets from roaming and hunting.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product on your pets as not all products are safe for cats, dogs, or your children.
  • Clean up areas near the home where rodents could live, such as woodpiles, brush piles, junk and abandoned vehicles.
  • Have sick pets examined promptly by a veterinarian.
  • See your doctor about any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever.
  • 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.

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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.

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