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Home News Plague Confirmed in a Dog in City of Santa Fe
Kenny Vigil
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Plague Confirmed in a Dog in City of Santa Fe

August 14, 2015 - Zoonotic Diseases - Disease

The New Mexico Department of Health is investigating a confirmed case of plague in a dog living in the city limits of Santa Fe. The dog was most likely exposed to plague by infected rodents and their fleas while walking with its owner along the Santa Fe River between Frenchy’s Field and Siler. The confirmatory testing on the dog was done at the Department of Health’s Scientific Laboratory Division.

“The increased vegetation and in some areas construction debris along the Santa Fe River can provide lots of rodent harborage,” said Department of Health public health veterinarian Paul Ettestad. “It is especially important if you walk your pets in these areas to take precautions to avoid rodents and their fleas which can expose people to plague. Pets that are allowed to roam and hunt can bring infected fleas from dead rodents back into the home, putting household members at risk.”

Plague is a bacterial disease of rodents and is generally 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.

Plague cases in animals have occurred every month of the year in New Mexico, but most cases usually occur in the summer months. To prevent plague, the Department of Health recommends:

  • Avoid sick or dead rodents and rabbits, and their nests and burrows.
  • Keep 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, or your children.
  • Clean up areas near the house where rodents could live, such as woodpiles, brush piles, junk and abandoned vehicles.
  • Sick pets should be examined promptly by a veterinarian.
  • See your doctor about any unexplained illness involving a sudden and severe fever.
  • Put hay, wood, and compost piles as far as possible from your home.
  • Don’t leave your pet’s food and water where rodents can get to it.

Symptoms of plague in humans include sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, and weakness. In most cases there is a painful swelling of a lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck area. Less frequently, symptoms can include abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, or bleeding. Rarely, plague infection can also cause pneumonia whose symptoms could include shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, and sometimes bloody or watery mucous. Plague symptoms in cats and dogs are fever, lethargy and loss of appetite. There may be a swelling in the lymph node 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 it to NMDOH.

There has been one human case of plague in New Mexico in 2015 to date, a fatal case in a woman from Santa Fe County. In New Mexico, there were two human plague cases in 2014, four human plague cases in 2013 with one fatality, one human plague case in 2012, two human cases of plague in 2011, and no cases in 2010.

For more information, including fact sheets in English and Spanish, go to the Plague section of our website.


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Peste Confirmada en un Perro en la Ciudad de Santa Fe