First human plague case of year diagnosed in Torrance County

Health News

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The New Mexico Department of Health reports a resident of Torrance County has been diagnosed with bubonic plague, making it the state’s first human case this year. The patient is being treated in a local hospital and is expected to make a full recovery, according to a news release.

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Officials say the person was most likely exposed to flea bites brought home by a pet. The release also states that 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.”

Plague is a bacterial disease of wildlife and is usually transmitted to humans and pets through the bites of infected fleas. According to NMDOH, one way for humans to become infected with plague is by sharing a bed with pets that may be carrying infected fleas.

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

  • Avoid sick or dead rodents and rabbits, and their nests and burrows.
  • Prevent your 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, and children.
  • Clean up areas near the home where rodents could live, such as woodpiles, brush piles, junk and abandoned vehicles.
  • 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.
  • Have sick pets examined promptly by a veterinarian.
  • See your doctor about any unexplained illness you may be having involving sudden and severe fever. 

People who maybe have the plague also may experience chills, headaches and weakness in addition to a fever. Also, NMDOH states 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 also may be swelling in the lymph nodes under the jaw. 

 Physicians who suspect plague should promptly report to NMDOH by calling 505-827-0006.

According to NMDOH In 2020 there were four human plague cases, 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. In 2019 there was one human plague case.

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