NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A cat in Los Alamos County has been diagnosed with the plague, making it the first plague case in the state this year. The New Mexico Department of Health says the cat became ill in early January. The bacterial disease is typically transmitted through insect bites or by eating infected animals. It can also be transmitted to people. NMDOH reports the cat has now recovered following treatment. 

“NMDOH staff will conduct an environmental investigation to ensure the safety of the immediate family and neighbors,” said Secretary-Designate Dr. Tracie Collins in a news release. “We also offer a friendly reminder: even in the midst of a global pandemic, other diseases still occur in New Mexico, and there are steps people can take to keep themselves and their pets safe.”

According to a news release, symptoms of plague in humans include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, and weakness. NMDOH says in most cases there is swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit, or neck area. NMDOH says plague symptoms in cats and dogs are fever, lethargy, and loss of appetite; there may be swelling in the lymph nodes under the jaw. NMDOH also says with quick response and diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment, the probability of death in people and pets can be greatly reduced.

NMDOH says doctors or veterinarians who suspect plague should promptly report to NMDOH by calling 505-827-0006. NMDOH offers some tips to prevent plague:

  • Avoid sick or dead rodents and rabbits, as well as 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
  • Have any sick pets examined promptly by a vet
  • Contact your medical provider about any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever
  • Clean up areas near the home where rodents could live, such as woodpiles, brush piles, junk, and abandoned vehicles
  • Place hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home
  • Avoid leaving pet food and water where rodents and wildlife can access it