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Home News Plague Activity Heats Up in the East Mountain Area
David Morgan
575-528-5197 Office
575-649-0754 Mobile

Plague Activity Heats Up in the East Mountain Area

May 23, 2014 - Zoonotic Diseases - Disease

The New Mexico Department of Health is reporting significant plague activity in the East Mountain area which includes parts of Bernalillo, Torrance, and Santa Fe counties. A dog was confirmed positive for plague this week at NMDOH’s Scientific Laboratory Division (SLD). The dog was from an area just on the west side of the town of Edgewood in southwestern Santa Fe County. So far this year there have been 3 dogs from the Edgewood area and a cat from Torrance County with confirmed plague. Last month a man from Torrance County was diagnosed with plague and has been hospitalized for over 4 weeks to date. He is expected to recover.

“With the Memorial Day weekend, people and their families and pets are taking the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “New Mexicans in the East Mountain area and statewide should take a few precautions to reduce your risk of being exposed to plague while enjoying outdoor activities.”

Plague is a bacterial disease of rodents and is generally transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas, but can also be transmitted by direct contact with infected animals, including rodents, wildlife and pets.

“It is very important to have children and pets avoid rodents and their burrows, especially if the rodents appear sick,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, public health veterinarian for the Department of Health. “Pets that are allowed to roam and hunt can bring infected fleas from dead rodents back into the home, putting you and your children at risk. Also, if you have recently handled a rodent or been bitten by their fleas and you develop a high fever and maybe also a painful swollen lymph node you should seek medical attention. This is especially important for those living in the East mountain area.”

To prevent plague, the Department of Health recommends:

  • Avoid sick or dead rodents and rabbits, and their nests and burrows.
  • Keep 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, or your children.
  • Clean up areas near the house where rodents could live, such as woodpiles, brush piles, junk and abandoned vehicles.
  • Sick pets should be 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 mice can get to it.

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. Physicians who suspect plague should promptly report to NMDOH.

In New Mexico, there were 4 human plague cases in 2013 with one fatality, one human plague case in 2012, two human cases of plague in 2011, no cases in 2010, and six human cases of plague in 2009, one of them fatal.

For more information, including fact sheets in English and Spanish, go to the Plague section of our website.


Media Contact

We would be happy to provide additional information about this press release. Simply contact David Morgan at 575-528-5197 (Office) or 575-649-0754 (Mobile) with your questions.