Infectious Diseases / Outbreak Watch

Plague Deaths in Animals in South Santa Fe

According to the Albuquerque Journal, there has been five deaths of animals (three cats, one dog, one mouse), which has been attributed to plague. Public Health Veterinarians have also identified massive die offs in rodents, rabbits and other susceptible wild animals in the vicinity. However, the diagnosed deaths in animals that existed in close proximity to human habitations has raised the possibility of the disease making a jump to man from an infected pet.

According to the report, efforts are being undertaken to educate and inform the people about the potential methods in which plague may spread and how they can combat it.

Plague is caused by Yersinia pestis, a bacterium which is usually spread through the fleas (Xenopsylla cheopis) on rodents. The disease may spread in many ways, including (from Wikipedia):

  • droplet contact – coughing or sneezing on another person
  • direct physical contact – touching an infected person, including sexual contact
  • indirect contact – usually by touching soil contamination or a contaminated surface
  • airborne transmission – if the microorganism can remain in the air for long periods
  • fecal-oral transmission – usually from contaminated food or water sources
  • vector borne transmission – carried by insects or other animals.
Male Xenopsylla cheopis (oriental rat flea) engorged with blood. This flea is the primary vector of plague in most large plague epidemics in Asia, Africa, and South America. Both male and female fleas can transmit the infection.
Image Credits: CDC
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