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Community Services Division News

 

Human Plague Case Confirmed in Bernalillo County

08/20/2015
9:14 AM

The New Mexico Department of Health, The City of Albuquerque Environmental Health Department, and the Bernalillo County Health Protection Section announced today a confirmed case of plague in a 65-year-old man from Bernalillo County. The case was confirmed at the Department of Health Scientific Laboratory Division. This is the second human case of plague in New Mexico this year. The other case in the state occurred in a 52-year-old woman from Santa Fe County, who died from the illness.

“Summer is traditionally peak season for plague In New Mexico. Everyone needs to avoid sick or dead rodents and rabbits, and their nests and burrows,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “I strongly urge families to talk to their veterinarian about an appropriate flea product for their pets.”

Plague is a potentially fatal illness in people that occurs in many parts of New Mexico. It is caused by a bacteria found in rodents, especially ground squirrels, rabbits and hares. Most human cases of plague are acquired through the bite of infected fleas. Dogs and cats are also susceptible to plague and are infected either through bites of infected fleas or by eating an animal that has died from the disease.

“Sick or dead rodents without obvious signs of trauma should be avoided and reported by calling 311,” said Dr. Paul Smith, Manager of the Albuquerque Environmental Health Department Urban Biology Division. “Dogs and cats should also be kept on year-round flea treatment to prevent them from bringing potentially plague infected fleas into the house.”

Symptoms of plague in people usually develop two to eight days after exposure. Plague symptoms are sudden fever, chills, headaches, and swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin areas. In rare cases, infection may progress without swollen lymph nodes making it harder to diagnose.

In addition to the two human cases, there have been seven cases of plague this year in dogs and cats, including pets from Bernalillo, Santa Fe, and Torrance counties. 

 Reduce the risk of plague:

  • Use insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing when you go outdoors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends repellents containing DEET, Picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 for use on skin, and permethrin for use on clothing. Always follow label directions when using insect repellents.
  • Keep your pets from roaming and hunting.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea and tick 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.
  • Don’t allow children or others to handle sick or dead wildlife.
  • 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.
  • Bernalillo County citizens living east of Tramway Blvd. should report sick or dead rodents and rabbits to 311. Rodents or rabbits with obvious signs of injury (gunshot wounds, bite wounds, etc.) do not need to be reported.

For more information about Plague and Tularemia visit the following websites:

http://www.cabq.gov/environmentalhealth/urban-biology

http://nmhealth.org/about/erd/ideb/zdp/plg/

 

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