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Published On: Wed, Sep 11th, 2013

New Mexico reports second human case of plague of 2013 in Torrance County girl

The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDH) announced today a probable case of plague in an 11-year-old girl from Torrance County, according to a health department press release Tuesday.

Flea  Image/CDC

Flea Image/CDC

This is the second human case of plague in New Mexico and in the United States this year. Earlier in August, NMDH officials reported a case of human plague in a 15-year-old Torrance County teen.

Preliminary test results at the Department’s Scientific Laboratory Division were positive. Confirmatory testing is pending.

“Everyone needs to avoid sick or dead rodents and rabbits, and their nests and burrows,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “Families should also talk to their veterinarian about an appropriate flea product for their pets.”

An environmental investigation will take place at the girl’s home to look for ongoing risk to others in the surrounding area.

Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis. It is found in animals throughout the world, most commonly rats but other rodents like ground squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, rabbits and voles. Fleas typically serve as the vector of plague. Human cases have been linked to the domestic cats and dogs that brought infected fleas into the house.

People can also get infected through direct contact with an infected animal, through inhalation and in the case of pneumonic plague, person to person.

Yersinia pestis is treatable with antibiotics if started early enough.

There are three forms of human plague; bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic.

Bubonic plague: This is the most common form. In this form, the bacteria enter the body through the bite of an infected flea or rodent. Here the bacteria infect the lymphatic system. After a few days to week, the person will experience fever, chills, weakness, and swollen lymph glands. These are called buboes.

In the U.S., bubonic plague is sporadic, primarily in the West. Typically, there are around 10 cases annually in this country.

Untreated bubonic plague is fatal about half the time.

Septicemic plague: This form is also contracted from a flea or rodent bite. Sometimes it appears subsequent to untreated bubonic or pneumonic plague. It involves bloodstream dissemination to all areas of the body. Buboes do not occur. Symptoms are endotoxic shock and disseminated intravascular coagulation. Untreated septicemic plague is nearly always fatal.

Pneumonic plague: Probably the most serious form of plague and it’s when the bacteria infect the lungs and cause pneumonia. It is contracted when the bacteria is inhaled (primary) or develops when bubonic or septicemic plague spreads to the lungs.

Pneumonic plague is contagious and can be transmitted person to person. It is highly communicable under appropriate climate conditions, overcrowding and cool temperatures. Untreated pneumonic plague is frequently fatal.

In New Mexico, there was one human plague case in 2012, two human cases of plague in 2011, no cases in 2010, and six human cases of plague in 2009, one of them fatal.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  1. All three bubonic plague cases in New Mexico have recovered: New Mexico health officials - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] This case follows the two cases reported in children in Torrance County. In August, a 15-year-old teenager contracted the potentially deadly bacterial disease and earlier this month, an 11-year-old girl was diagnosed with plague. […]

  2. New Mexico reports third human plague case of 2013 in Santa Fe County man - The Global Dispatch says:

    […] This case follows the two cases reported in children in Torrance County. In August, a 15-year-old teenager contracted the potentially deadly bacterial disease and earlier this month, an 11-year-old girl was diagnosed with plague. […]

  3. Bubonic Plague right on our doorstep in New Mexico | ProBest's Blog - Pest Control says:

    […] “New Mexico reports second human case of Plague of 2013 in Torrence County Girl” Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis. It is found in animals throughout the world, most commonly rats but other rodents like ground squirrels, prairie dogs, chipmunks, rabbits and voles. Fleas typically serve as the vector of plague. Human cases have been linked to the domestic cats and dogs that brought infected fleas into the house. […]

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