A New Mexico Man Has Died of the Bubonic Plague

This is the first human case of plague in the state since 2021 and the first death since 2020

<p>Getty</p> A stock image of a hospital


A stock image of a hospital

A New Mexico man has died of the bubonic plague.

In a statement released on Friday, the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) announced the death of an unidentified man from Lincoln County.

“We extend our deepest sympathy to the family of the Lincoln County man who succumbed to plague,” said State Public Health Veterinarian Erin Phipps, DVM, MPH. “This tragic incident serves as a clear reminder of the threat posed by this ancient disease and emphasizes the need for heightened community awareness and proactive measures to prevent its spread.”

According to the NMDOH, the man's death was the first reported human case of the bubonic plague in New Mexico since 2021 and the first death since 2020, when there were four reported human cases of the plague in the state.

The organization said it is contacting area residents to trace the potential spread of the disease and assessing the environment in the community to identify any ongoing risk.

Getty Illustration of a plague
Getty Illustration of a plague

The bubonic plague is a "bacterial disease of rodents and is generally spread to humans through the bites of infected fleas," the NMDOH said, adding that symptoms in humans include fever, chills, headache or weakness. Patients also commonly experience "painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck areas."

Per the CDC, "Humans usually get plague after being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the plague bacterium or by handling an animal infected with plague."

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According to NMDOH, it can also be transferred to humans who have had direct contact with an infected animal, including dogs or cats that are permitted to hunt outside of the home. To avoid the disease, department officials recommend that people keep their distance from sick or dead rodents and rabbits and areas they've been living.

Symptoms of the plague in animals, meanwhile, can include fever, lethargy and loss of appetite, the NMDOH said, adding that in order to prevent the spread of the plague in one's household, owners should regularly talk to their pet's veterinarian about flea control, keep their living areas clean and see a doctor if experiencing symptoms.

Related: Oregon's First Case of Bubonic Plague in Nearly 10 Years May Have Been Transmitted by a Cat

In February, an Oregon resident experienced symptoms of the plague. The disease was likely transmitted by a "very sick" cat, NBC News reported.

The patient in that case responded "very well to antibiotic treatment," Dr. Richard Fawcett, a health officer for Deschutes County, Oregon, told the outlet.

It was the state's first reported human case in a decade.

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