The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) has reported two new cases of plague infecting a 52- year old woman and a 62-year old woman, in the Santa Fe County.
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These are the second and third cases in the county in 2017, with the first, which involved a 63-year old man, having been reported in early June. None of the patients died, but all three did require hospitalization.
Health workers from the NMDOH are inspecting the homes of the three patients to safeguard against any ongoing risk to immediate family and neighbors.
Plague is usually transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas, but animals also get infected and direct contact with infected pets, rodents or other wild animals is also a mode of transmission.
Dr Paul Ettestad, state public health veterinarian for the Department of Health says fleas that infest wild rodents in Santa Fe County can be carrying the disease, including fleas within the city limits of Santa Fe and other New Mexico locations.
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,”
Ettestad recommends containing pets within the home or keeping them on a leash and that people protect themselves and their families by making sure they use appropriate flea control products.
Other prevention measures recommended by the Department of Health include the following:
- Get advice form a vet about suitable flea control products, as not all of them are safe for use around children, dogs and cats
- Have any sick pets checked by a vet
- Clean any areas near the home where rodents could live such as piles of wood and abandoned vehicles and move piles of hay and compost as far away from the home as possible
- Get medical advice if any unexplained illnesses accompanied by a fever suddenly develop
- Avoid leaving pets’ food or water in places accessible to mice
Plague symptoms in humans include sudden fever, chills, weakness and headache and usually swelling of lymph nodes in the groin, neck or armpit. In cats and dogs, symptoms include fever, lethargy, appetite loss and possibly lymph node swelling beneath the jaw.
If plague is promptly diagnosed and treated, human and pet fatality rates can be significantly reduced and any physicians who suspect cases of plague should quickly report them to the Department of Health.