The Rio Arriba County man, who was not publicly identified, was in his 20s and had been hospitalized before his death, according to health officials

By Gabrielle Chung
August 11, 2020 06:17 PM
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A New Mexico man has died of septicemic plague just two weeks after the state reported its first human plague case of the year.

The Rio Arriba County man, who was not publicly identified, was in his 20s and had been hospitalized before his death, the New Mexico Department of Health said in a news release on Friday.

An environmental investigation will be conducted at the man's home to look for ongoing risk to immediate family members, neighbors and others in the community, according to health officials.

"Plague activity in New Mexico is usually highest during the summer months, so it is especially important now to take precautions to avoid rodents and their fleas, which can expose you to plague," said Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel.

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The plague death is the first for the state in 2020 and the second reported case of plague.

In late July, the New Mexico Department of Health reported that a Santa Fe County man in his 60s had been diagnosed with bubonic plague.

Plague is a bacterial disease of rodents that is generally transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas or contact with infected animals, including rodents, wildlife and pets, according to the department. Pets that roam and hunt are at risk of bringing infected fleas from dead rodents into the home.

To avoid plague, health officials recommends preventing pets from roaming outdoors, using flea control products on pets and cleaning up areas around the home that could attract rodents.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies bubonic, pneumonic and septicemic as the most common clinical forms of plague.

Though cases of the plague pop up across the world each year, outbreaks have become increasingly rare as treatment has improved. According to the CDC, an average of seven human plague cases are reported each year in the United States, with most occurring in the southwest (particularly in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado).

Worldwide, the World Health Organization reports between 1,000 and 2,000 total cases each year. The symptoms of plague include high fever, chills, headache, nausea and swelling of the lymph nodes.