A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Wed 10 Jun 2009
From: Paul Ettestad
The 3rd human case of plague (_Yersinia pestis_) from New Mexico in
2009 has been confirmed and only 1 week after the 1st 2 cases. All 3
cases were most likely exposed via fleabite due to their clinical
presentations of bubonic plague. Though we will never know the exact
exposure, one of the risk factors in the 1st 2 cases was that the
family dog was allowed to roam and hunt and then sleep in bed with
the children. No flea control products were used on the dog.
This type of risk has been seen in other human cases in past years
and serves as a reminder to emphasize flea control product use on
pets, even in dry areas. These are not the typical dog and cat fleas,
but plague-infected rodent fleas from various animal species (prairie
dogs, rock squirrels, wood rats, etc) that may be involved in a
plague outbreak. The rodent fleas will transiently move to other
animals (dogs, cats, etc) from their preferred rodent host when it
dies, and can be brought into the home by pets that are allowed to
roam and hunt.
North-central New Mexico is having a cooler and wetter late spring
which allows infected fleas to survive longer and to move to the
burrow entrances after their host rodent has died from plague without
being prone to desiccation in the usual hot and dry environment. This
increases the risk that people and pets walking near the burrow
entrances may have infected fleas jump onto them to try and take a blood meal.
Paul Ettestad DVM, MS
State Public Health Veterinarian
Epidemiology and Response Division
New Mexico Department of Health
[ProMED-mail thanks Dr Ettestad for his first-hand information and
the inclusion of the news release from the State Department of
Health, dated 10 Jun 2009:
State confirms 3rd human plague case from Santa Fe County
Animal cases also confirmed in Taos and Santa Fe Counties
The New Mexico Department of Health confirmed today [10 Jun 2009] a
3rd case of bubonic plague in Santa Fe County so far in 2009. A
56-year-old man was hospitalized and is back home recovering. The
Department of Health is conducting an environmental investigation at
the man's residence to determine if there is any ongoing risk to people.
The Department also confirmed a plague case in a dog from north of
the city of Taos and a cat case from the Arroyo Hondo area southeast
of the city of Santa Fe. Earlier this month [June 2009] the
Department reported a fatal case in an 8-year-old Santa Fe County boy
and a case in his 10-year-old sister who recovered. There have been a
total of 3 human cases in New Mexico, all in Santa Fe County, so far in 2009.
To prevent cases of plague, the Department of Health recommends
- Avoid sick or dead rodents.
- Teach children not to play near rodent nests or burrows.
- Treat pets regularly with an effective flea control product.
- Clean up areas near the house where rodents could live.
- Keep pets from roaming and hunting.
- Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian.
Symptoms in cats and dogs are similar to humans. Fever, lethargy, not
eating, and swollen lymph nodes (usually in the neck area) are the
most common signs.
There was one human case of plague in 2008 in an Eddy County man.
There were 5 human cases of plague in Bernalillo, San Juan, Santa Fe,
and Torrance counties in 2007 with a fatality. 8 human plague cases
occurred in New Mexico in 2006 with 3 fatalities."
The southwestern state of New Mexico can be located on the
HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map of the US at
A map of the state of New Mexico showing the location of Santa Fe and
the other counties mentioned in the posting can be found at
Plague, fatal - USA: (NM) bubonic 20090605.2080
Plague, rabbit - USA (NM) 20090415.1435
Plague, human, feline - USA (NM): early season cases 20080127.0340
Plague, bubonic, human - USA (NM) 20070929.3218
Plague, feline - USA (NM) 20070914.3055
Plague, human, septicemic - USA (NM) 20070612.1914
Plague, human, fatal - USA (NM) 20070608.1875
Plague, human, secondary pneumonic - USA (NM) 20070607.1846
Plague, septicemic - USA (NM) 20070504.1447
Plague, bubonic, human - USA (NM)(02) 20060724.2034
Plague, bubonic, human - USA (NM) 20060717.1960
Plague, human - USA (NM) 20060601.1526
Plague, human, fatal - USA (NM) 20060528.1500
Plague, human - USA (NM)(02) 20050726.2163
Plague, human - USA (NM) 20050725.2157
Plague, cats - USA (NM) 20040502.1213]