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Matt Bieber
505-470-2290 Office

Department of Health Reports a Human Plague Case

August 20, 2021 - 2019 Novel Coronavirus - Awareness

SANTA FE - On Friday, the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) reported the first human case of bubonic plague in the state this year. The case was confirmed by the New Mexico Scientific Laboratory Division. The patient - a resident of Torrance County - is being treated in a local hospital and is expected to make a full recovery. 

The person was most likely exposed to flea bites brought home by a pet. An environmental investigation will take place at the person’s home to look for ongoing risk to immediate family members, neighbors and others in the surrounding community.

“This case is a reminder that even during a pandemic, other infectious diseases can still be a threat,” said Acting Secretary David R. Scrase, MD. “Plague cases are routinely diagnosed among animals - and sometimes passed on to humans.”

Plague is a bacterial disease of wildlife, mainly rodents, and is usually transmitted to humans and pets through the bites of infected fleas. One way for humans to become infected with plague is by sharing a bed with pets that may be carrying infected fleas.

To prevent plague, the Department of Health recommends that you:

·     Avoid sick or dead rodents and rabbits, and their nests and burrows.

·     Prevent 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, and children.

·     Clean up areas near the home where rodents could live, such as woodpiles, brush piles, junk and abandoned vehicles.

·     Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home.

·     Don’t leave your pet’s food and water where rodents and wildlife can get to it.

·     Have sick pets examined promptly by a veterinarian.

·     See your doctor about any unexplained illness you may be having involving sudden and severe fever. 

In addition to fever, symptoms of plague in humans include sudden onset of 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 swelling in the lymph nodes 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 by calling 505-827-0006.

There were four human plague cases in 2020, one in a 29-year-old man from Rio Arriba County that was fatal, one in a 64-year-old man from Santa Fe County who recovered, and two in Torrance County, one in a 37-year-old man who recovered and one in a 57-year-old female who did not survive. There was one human plague case in 2019, in a 72-year-old man from Torrance County who survived. 

For more information about plague, including fact sheets in English and Spanish, please visit the Department of Health’s website at





David Morgan, Media & Social Media Mgr. | | (575) 649-0754


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