Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Santa Fe County man diagnosed with bubonic plague – The Durango Herald

Environmental survey in progress to determine risk to others

An electron micrograph shows Yersinia pestis bacteria that cause the bubonic plague.

Associated press file

FARMINGTON – New Mexico has its first positive case of human plague in 2020.

A 60-year-old Santa Fe County man has been diagnosed with bubonic plague and is recovering at a local hospital, the New Mexico Department of Health said Monday.

“This is a reminder that even during a pandemic there are other infectious diseases out there that can harm your health,” said Kathy Kunkel, secretary for the Ministry of Health, in a press release.

An environmental health inspection is carried out at the person’s home to determine possible risks to immediate family members, neighbors, or the surrounding community.

“All New Mexicans must be aware of the risks of contracting diseases like the plague and take the necessary precautions to avoid them,” the press release said.

Although it is not certain how the man contracted the plague – a bacterial disease most common in wildlife – it is typically transmitted to humans and pets through the bites of infected fleas. Pets are also known to get the disease after eating an already infected animal.

Symptoms in humans include sudden fever, chills, headache, and muscle weakness, and the disease is often accompanied by swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, or groin. In cats and dogs, symptoms of plague include fever, loss of appetite, and lethargy.

According to the state health department, there was a case of animal plague in a dog in the Santa Fe district earlier this year.

New Mexico’s first case of bubonic plague in a person this year comes a week after the San Juan Basin Public Health announced that a resident of La Plata County tested positive for septic plague. Health officials said the disease was thought to be transmitted by fleas from a ground squirrel. The septicemic plague, which is rarer than the bubonic plague, cannot be transmitted from person to person.

The last case of human plague in the La Plata county was reported in 2014, according to the health authority.

To prevent the plague, the New Mexico Department of Health recommends avoiding sick or dead rodents and rabbits; Cleaning up areas near a home where rodents could live, such as piles of brushes, piles of wood, and abandoned vehicles; and placing piles of hay, wood, and compost as far from a house as possible.

The department also recommended that pet owners speak to a veterinarian about using a flea repellent on pets; Preventing pets from roaming and chasing; have sick pets examined by a veterinarian; and to keep a pet’s food and water away from places where wildlife and rodents might get there.

Rapid diagnosis and antibiotic treatment will lower the death rate from plague in humans and pets, according to state health officials. Anyone suspecting an epidemic can report it to the New Mexico Department of Health at (505) 827-0006.

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