New Mexico Department of Health
Our mission is to promote health and wellness, improve health outcomes, and assure safety net services for all people in New Mexico.
David Morgan
575-528-5197 Office
575-649-0754 Mobile

Plague Likely Cause of Death of Santa Fe County Woman

July 24, 2015 - Zoonotic Diseases - Disease

The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) is investigating a probable case of plague in a 52-year-old woman from Santa Fe County who died of her illness. Confirmatory testing is being conducted at the NMDOH Scientific Laboratory Division. This would be the first human case of plague in New Mexico this year. An environmental investigation will take place at the woman’s home to look for ongoing risk to others in the surrounding area.

“Department of Health staff will go door-to-door to neighbors near the case to inform them about plague found in the area and educate them on reducing their risk,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “Because the patient had pneumonia, health care providers and other close contacts of the patient who have been determined to have been exposed are taking preventive antibiotic therapy.”

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

Plague cases can occur at any time of the year in New Mexico, but most cases occur during the summer months. It is especially important now given the warm temperatures to take precautions to avoid rodents and their fleas which can expose people to plague. Pets that are allowed to roam and hunt can bring infected fleas from dead rodents back into the home, putting household members at risk.

To prevent plague, the Department of Health recommends:

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. Rarely, plague infection can also cause pneumonia.

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 two human plague cases in 2014, four human plague cases in 2013 with one fatality, one human plague case in 2012, two human cases of plague in 2011, and no cases in 2010.

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.


Versión en Español

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Peste es la Causa Probable de la Muerte de una Mujer en el Condado de Santa