The New Mexico Department of Health has confirmed the first human case of plague in the United States this year.  State health officials said Thursday that a 78-year-old man from Torrance County currently is hospitalized in stable condition. His name hasn’t been released. An environmental investigation will take place at the man’s home to look for ongoing risk to others in the surrounding area. At this time this report was issued it is unknown if the New Mexico Dept of Health has been able to isolate the cause of infection.  The plague biohazard level is 4/4 and considered very contagious.

People infected with the plague need medical treatment with in 24 hours. Without treatment the death rate is 100% and with medical treatment 50%.   At this time the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has not issued a warning.

More detailed information about this alert can be found at RSOE EDIS

Event Report…

Fleas typically serve as the vector of plague. Human cases have been linked to the domestic cats and dogs that brought infected fleas into the house. Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague. In this form, the bacteria typically enter the body through the bite of an infected flea or rodent. Here the bacteria infect the lymphatic system. After a few days to a week, the person will experience fever, chills, weakness, and swollen lymph glands. These are called buboes. Untreated bubonic plague is fatal about half the time. Yersinia pestis is treatable with antibiotics if started early enough. NM public health veterinarian, Dr. Paul Ettestad says plague activity usually begins to increase in the spring and continues into the summer months. Now is the season and people need to take precautions to avoid rodents and their fleas which can expose them to plague. Ettestad says, “Pets that are allowed to roam and hunt can bring infected fleas from dead rodents back into the home, putting you and your children at risk”.

Biohazard name:     Yersinia pestis (plague)

Biohazard level:       4/4 Hazardous

Biohazard desc.:      Viruses and bacteria that cause severe to fatal disease in humans, and for which vaccines or other treatments are not available, such as Bolivian and Argentine hemorrhagic fevers, H5N1(bird flu), Dengue hemorrhagic fever, Marburg virus, Ebola virus, hanta viruses, Lassa fever, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, and other hemorrhagic or unidentified diseases. When dealing with biological hazards at this level the use of a Hazmat suit and a self-contained oxygen supply is mandatory. The entrance and exit of a Level Four biolab will contain multiple showers, a vacuum room, an ultraviolet light room, autonomous detection system, and other safety precautions designed to destroy all traces of the bio hazard. Multiple airlocks are employed and are electronically secured to prevent both doors opening at the same time. All air and water service going to and coming from a Bio safety Level 4 (P4) lab will undergo similar decontamination procedures to eliminate the possibility of an accidental release.