Published Date: 2011-07-01 16:42:32
Subject: PRO/AH> Plague, animal - USA (04): (NM) canine
Archive Number: 20110701.1999
PLAGUE, ANIMAL - USA (04): (NEW MEXICO) CANINE
A ProMED-mail post
ProMED-mail is a program of the
International Society for Infectious Diseases
Date: Tue 28 Jun 2011
Source: Alamogordo Daily News [edited]
The New Mexico Department of Health's Scientific Laboratory Division
confirmed plague this week in a dog in Rio Rancho. The dog was most
likely infected when running in open fields on the north end of the
city and encountering sick or dead rabbits and other rodents, health
"A plague case in a pet serves as a warning that there is plague
activity in rabbits, rodents, and their fleas in the area," said Dr
Catherine Torres, the Department of Health's cabinet secretary. "I
encourage everyone to follow simple prevention recommendations to keep
themselves and their families and pets safe."
Plague, a bacterial disease of rodents, is generally transmitted to
humans through the bites of infected fleas, but can also be
transmitted by direct contact with infected animals, including
rodents, rabbits and pets. "Pets infected with plague are often
hunters who have eaten an infected rodent or been bitten by a rodent's
fleas prior to getting ill," said Dr Paul Ettestad, public health
veterinarian for the Department of Health. "Pets can transport the
fleas back into the home where they can infect people."
Symptoms of plague in humans include sudden onset of fever, chills,
headache, and weakness. In most cases there is a painful swelling of
the lymph node in the groin, armpit, or neck areas. 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
with appropriate antibiotic treatment, the fatality rate in people and
pets can be greatly reduced.
To prevent plague, the Department of Health recommends the
- avoid sick or dead rodents and rabbits, and their nests and
- keep your pets from roaming and hunting, and talk to your
veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product;
- 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 mice can get to it.
In New Mexico, there have been 2 human cases so far in 2011, both
from Santa Fe County; no human cases in 2010 and 6 human cases of
plague in 2009: 3 from Santa Fe County, 2 from Bernalillo County and
one from Sandoval County. One of the Santa Fe County cases was a fatal
case in an 8-year-old boy. For more information, including fact sheets
in English and Spanish, go to the Department's website at
HealthMap Alerts via ProMED-mail
[Rio Rancho in central New Mexico can be located via the
HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map at
Plague, caused by _Yersinia pestis_, is enzootic among rodents in the
western USA. Humans can be infected through 1) the bite of an infected
flea carried by a rodent or, rarely, other animals; 2) direct contact
with contaminated tissues; or 3) in rare cases, inhalation of
respiratory secretions from infected people or animals.
Plague is a category A potential bioterrorism agent. Human infections
are rare but can be life-threatening. The plague case-fatality rate
depends on the clinical presentation (that is, bubonic, septicemic, or
pneumonic) and timing of antibiotic therapy initiation; if untreated,
the case-fatality rate is over 50 per cent for bubonic plague and
approaches 100 per cent for pneumonic plague (1). Rapid laboratory
identification can help guide therapy.
Domestic cats and dogs can also contract plague from infective fleas.
They may carry infected fleas home to their owners or, especially
cats, serve as a direct source of infection. There are many flea
treatments and repellents appropriate for pets and available. Some
products may be suitable for dogs but not cats or may be suitable for
an adult but not a younger animal. Be sure to consult your
veterinarian, as some products may be toxic to cats, kittens, and
puppies, even resulting in fatalities.
Clinical signs in pets involve a localized swelling, such as under
the jaw in cats, but also in the inguinal region or under the front
leg (the armpit if you will), lethargy, anorexia, and fever. Please
take your pet to a veterinarian if you notice any abnormalities in
Veterinarians should protect themselves by wearing gloves when
examining these swellings. A bubo that ruptures may infect the
veterinarian or even the pet owner if the pet owner is the one
palpating the swelling.
Another form of the disease is the respiratory form. Cats may acquire
this form and can spread it to their owners or the veterinarians
through infected expiratory droplets. People are also prone to the
respiratory infection as well.
You should also be aware that the fleas that hitchhike into your home
via a pet vehicle can also transmit disease to you, the owner or
caretaker of the pet. Sleeping in the same bed with dogs has been
associated with plague in enzootic areas (2). Plague patients with no
history of exposure to rodents can be infected by _Y. pestis_ if their
pets carry infected rodent fleas into the home. Veterinarians always
should recommend flea control to dog and cat owners.
1. CDC. Human plague -- four states, 2006. MMWR 2006; 55(34): 940-3;
available at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5534a4.htm.
2. Gould LH, Pape J, Ettestad P, et al: Dog-associated risk factors
for human plague. Zoonoses Public Health 2008; 55(8-10): 448-54;
abstract available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18489541. -