Two new cases of the human plague have been confirmed in Santa Fe County, New Mexico, according to health officials. The first confirmed case of the plague this year was diagnosed in June when a 63-year-old man contracted the disease.
The three most common types of plague are bubonic, septicemic and pneumonic, though it isn't clear which type has affected the three new patients. State health officials are now investigating the homes of the patients to ensure no one else in the nearby area have been placed at risk of contracting the potentially deadly infection.
Plague generally is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected fleas but can be transmitted by direct contact with infected animals including rodents and pets.
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The state dealt with the plague recently with four reported cases in both 2016 and 2015.
State public health veterinarian Paul Ettestad said plague can be present in fleas that infest wild rodents in Santa Fe County, including within the city limits of Santa Fe and in other locations around New Mexico.
Among Americans, the plague is usually detected in New Mexico, northwestern Arizona and southern Colorado.
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Talk to your veterinarian about using an appropriate flea control product on your pets as not all products are safe for cats, dogs, or your children.
In 2015, there was an increase in USA cases, with 16 reported and four deaths recorded.
More than a fifth of the human plague cases in New Mexico between 1949 and 2014 occurred in Santa Fe County, with 59 cases in the county out of 271 statewide.
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The plague, which is caused by a type of bacteria called Yersinia pestis, is perhaps best known for killing millions of people in Europe in the 1300s, in a pandemic called the Black Death. Proper treatment and antibiotics greatly reduce the risk of death. There can also be painful swelling of the lymph node in the groin, armpit or neck.