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Five recent animal plague cases reported in south Santa Fe

SANTA FE, N.M. — Five plague cases have been found in animals in south Santa Fe since November, according to the state Department of Health.

Three cats, one dog and one mouse were confirmed with the bacterial disease, all associated with residences along the Interstate 25 corridor between Cerrillos Road and Old Las Vegas Highway.

The disease is carried by fleas often found on rodents, but the fleas can transmit plague when they hop to a person or pet and bite it looking for a blood meal.

You also can catch plague through direct contact with diseased animals.

“We are seeing die-offs of rabbits, squirrels, pack rats and various rodents in several areas of New Mexico from both plague and tularemia,” said Dr. Paul Ettestad, public health veterinarian, in a news release.

People are advised to prevent their pets from roaming, consider appropriate flea control, clean up areas such as wood and brush piles that attract rodents, have any sick pets promptly examined by a veterinarian, and see their own doctor about any suspicious illness.

Symptoms of plague in humans include sudden and severe fever, chills, headache and weakness, as well an painful lymph node swelling in the groin, armpit or neck.

In animals, plague can be signaled through fever, lethargy and loss of appetite, along with swelling under the jaw.

In 2014, 17 cases of plague were reported in dogs and cats in New Mexico and two cases were reported in humans, both of whom recovered. The previous year saw four human plague cases in New Mexico, with one person dying.