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Published On: Thu, Sep 24th, 2015

Septicemic plague case reported in Santa Fe County, 4th plague case in New Mexico this year

A Santa Fe County, NM woman has been laboratory confirmed positive for Yersinia pestis, the bacterial agent of plague, making this the fourth human plague case in New Mexico in 2015. The 73-year-old woman was hospitalized and is back home recovering, according to the New Mexico Department of Health Wednesday.

Image/The General Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin

Image/The General Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin

“This is the fourth case of plague in New Mexico with the patient presenting clinical signs of septicemic plague,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “Though septicemic plague is less common and harder to recognize than the more common form of bubonic plague, health care providers need to consider plague in their diagnosis when the patient has a fever of unknown origin and when the patient is from plague endemic areas of the state.”

Septicemic plague accounts for approximately 20-25 percent of New Mexico cases. It is 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.

“Several of our plague cases this year have most likely been exposed to plague-infected rodent fleas brought into the home and bedroom by dogs and cats that are allowed to roam and hunt and aren’t treated with a flea control product,” said Paul Ettestad, state public health veterinarian with the Department of Health. There have been 8 cases of plague this year in dogs and cats, including pets from Bernalillo, Santa Fe, and Torrance counties.

Plague cycles in the US Image/CDC

Plague cycles in the US
Image/CDC

In addition to this case, other cases in the state occurred in a 52-year-old woman from Santa Fe County, who died from the illness, and in a 65-year-old man and a 59-year-old woman, both from Bernalillo County, who have recovered.

This is the 15th human plague case reported in the US this year [Arizona (two), California (one), Colorado (four), Georgia (one), New Mexico (four), Oregon (one) and Utah (one)], the most seen since 2006 when 17 cases were reported.

Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today and the Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch

Follow @bactiman63

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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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