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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

August 11, 2020
Yersinia pestis, bacteria that causes the plague. Image by via UPI

A New Mexico man in his 20s has died from septicemic plague, health authorities say. It is the first human plague death in New Mexico this year and the second case this year in the state.

According to the New Mexico Department of Health, the man lived in Rio Arriba County and died after being hospitalized.

The Department of Health said officials will conduct an environmental investigation in the man's home in order to ascertain ongoing risk to family members and neighbors.

On July 27 a Santa Fe County man in his 60s was diagnosed with bubonic plague.

Plague is a bacterial disease of rodents, usually transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas.

But it can also be transmitted by direct contact with infected animals, including rodents, wildlife and pets, officials say.

There are three forms of plague, with symptoms varying depending on how the person was exposed to the bacterium, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

"Plague activity in New Mexico is usually highest during the summer months, so it is especially important now to take precautions to avoid rodents and their fleas which can expose you to plague," said Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel.

According to the CDC, while cases of plague are rare in the United States 21st century, they still happen, with health departments reporting an average of seven cases per year, with most occurring in the rural West.

New Mexico officials say this is the first human plague-related death in New Mexico since 2015.

There was a single human plague case in 2019 involving a 78-year-old man, and no human plague cases in the state in 2020.

There have also been two animal plague cases in New Mexico this year: one in a dog and one in a cat.

New Mexico's Department of Health recommends avoiding sick or dead rodents and rabbits, taking sick pets to the veterinarian and preventing pets from roaming and hunting -- and using appropriate flea control products on pets.


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