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New Mexico Man Dies from Bubonic Plague; Health Officials Warn of 'Threat Posed by This Ancient Disease'

New Mexico Man Dies From Medieval Plague Spread by Rodents
Source: MEGA

A New Mexico man has died of bubonic plague, the disease known for killing millions of Europeans — who called it the 'Black Death' — during the Middle Ages.

Mar. 20 2024, Published 9:07 a.m. ET

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A man in New Mexico died of bubonic plague, a disease infamous for its devastating impact on Europe during the Middle Ages, where it was called the "Black Death."

This incident marks the second death from this Medieval affliction in the state since 2020, experts say.

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According to the New Mexico Department of Health, the man, whose identity remains undisclosed, had recently been admitted to the hospital with the plague.

This disease, carried by rodents and typically transmitted to humans through bites from infected fleas, was confirmed as the cause of his illness recently.

State Public Health Veterinarian Erin Phipps emphasized the gravity of the situation, stating, "This tragic incident serves as a clear reminder of the threat posed by this ancient disease and emphasizes the need for heightened community awareness and proactive measures to prevent its spread."

Health authorities cautioned the public about the potential risks posed by pets, such as dogs and cats, that are allowed to roam freely and hunt. These animals may bring infected fleas back home, increasing the risk of transmission to humans.

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An environmental assessment is underway to evaluate the extent of the threat to the community.

Symptoms of plague in humans include sudden fever, chills, headache, weakness and painful swelling of lymph nodes in the groin, armpit or neck. Similarly, pets may exhibit fever, lethargy, loss of appetite and swelling of lymph nodes under the jaw.

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Prevention primarily involves minimizing exposure to rodents known to carry the disease.

Residents are advised to prevent their pets from roaming or hunting, consider using flea control products and maintain cleanliness in outdoor areas to deter rodents.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial for both humans and pets experiencing symptoms of plague, as antibiotics can significantly reduce the risk of mortality.

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The state's history with plague includes recent cases in various counties, with New Mexico having the highest incidence rate in the United States since 1970.

Plague, introduced to the U.S. in 1900, saw its last urban epidemic in Los Angeles from 1924 to 1925. Beyond the U.S., plague epidemics have affected regions in Africa, Asia and South America.

The Black Death pandemic, spanning from 1347 to 1351, remains one of the deadliest outbreaks in history, claiming an estimated 30 to 60% of Europe's population.

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