New Mexico man dies of plague: state officials

A New Mexico man has died of septicemic plague, officials with the New Mexico Department of Health announced on Friday.

The man, who was not publicly identified, was in his 20s and lived in Rio Arriba County. His death marks the first such fatality in the state since 2015, and the second human plague case overall this year, officials said in a press release.

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“The Rio Arriba County man died after being hospitalized. An environmental investigation will take place at the person’s home to look for ongoing risk to immediate family members, neighbors and others in the surrounding community,” according to officials.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies bubonic, pneumonic, and septicemic as the most common clinical forms of plague. Septicemic plague “can occur as the first symptom of plague, or may develop from untreated bubonic plague. This form results from bites of infected fleas or from handling an infected animal,” per the CDC.

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Symptoms often include fever, chills, extreme weakness, abdominal pain, shock, and “possibly bleeding into the skin and other organs,” the federal agency states, adding that “skin and other tissues may turn black and die, especially on fingers, toes, and the nose.”

“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 New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Kathy Kunkel in a statement.