Plague is an infectious disease of animals and humans caused by a bacterium named Yersinia pestis. People usually get plague from the bite of a rodent flea that is carrying plague bacteria or by handling an infected animal. Although plague is a rare disease, about half of U.S. cases each year occur in New Mexico. Today, modern antibiotics are effective against plague, but if an infected person is not treated promptly, the disease can be life-threatening.
There have been five confirmed cases of animal plague in New Mexico in 2013 in three dogs from Bernalillo County and two dogs from Santa Fe County.
Eisen RJ, Reynolds PJ, Ettestad P, et al. Residence-linked human plague in New Mexico: a habitat-suitability model. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2007;77:121-125.
Eisen RJ, Enscore RE, Biggerstaff BJ, et al. Human plague in the Southwestern United States, 1957-2004: spatial models of elevated risk of human exposure to Yersinia pestis. J Med Entomol. 2007;44:530-537.
Gage KL, Dennis DT, Orloski KA, et al. Cases of cat-associated human plague in the Western US, 1977-1998. Clin Infect Dis. 2000;30:893-900.
Enscore RE, Biggerstaff BJ, Brown TL, et al. Modeling relationships between climate and the frequency of human plague cases in the Southwestern United States, 1960-1997. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2002;66:186-196.
The rock squirrel and its fleas are an important source of human plague in New Mexico.
Nurse Advice Hotline
Environmental Health Epidemiology
1 (888) 878-8992
Infectious Disease Epidemiology
An infectious disease epidemiologist is available 24/7/365 at (505) 827-0006 to answer questions and accept notifiable condition reports.