Woman Dead, Man Hospitalized With Plague in New Mexico

A Santa Fe County man is the second person to contract the plague in New Mexico this year, the state Department of Health says.

The unidentified man was hospitalized Wednesday in critical but stable condition, said Deborah Busemeyer, department spokeswoman.

The man was suffering from the septicemic form of the disease in which the plague bacteria multiply in the bloodstream.

The department confirmed last Friday that a Bernalillo County woman died the previous week of the septicemic form of the plague. She was the first person to die from plague in New Mexico in a dozen years.

Plague generally is transmitted to people by the bites of infected fleas, but also can be transmitted by direct contact with infected animals — rodents, wildlife and pets.

"This is the time of year when we see the most plague activity, so it's especially important to avoid rodents and fleas by getting wood and compost piles away from your home and making sure your pet has an effective flea control product," said C. Mack Sewell, state epidemiologist for the department.

Symptoms of bubonic plague include fever; painful swollen lymph nodes in the groin, armpit or neck; and chills. Symptoms also can include headache, vomiting and diarrhea.

New Mexico reported four human plague cases last year, three from Santa Fe County and one from Bernalillo County. There were no human cases in the state in 2004.

The last person to die from plague in the state before this year was a child from Rio Arriba County in 1994.

The department recommends cleaning up areas near homes where rodents could live; avoiding sick or dead rodents; teaching children not to play near rodent nests or burrows; treating pets with flea control products regularly; and keeping pets from roaming or hunting.