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Monday, August 4, 2014

Plague Danger in California and New Mexico

The New Mexico Department of Health is reporting a case of plague in a 43-year-old woman from Rio Arriba County who is currently hospitalized. Confirmatory testing was conducted at the Department's Scientific Laboratory Division.

The 1st plague case in New Mexico in 2014 was reported in April 2014 in a 57-year-old man from Torrance County who is still recovering. An environmental investigation will take place at the woman's home to look for ongoing risk to others in the surrounding area.
San Diego County officials issued an alert last week after 2 squirrels trapped in routine monitoring at an empty outdoor school on Palomar Mountain have tested positive for plague. The squirrels were trapped on property at Camp Palomar Outdoor School, which was undergoing summer maintenance and not scheduled to be used by campers until 25 Aug 2014.
This prompted officials to remind people to take simple steps to protect themselves when camping and hiking. "When you're enjoying the outdoors, just remember, don't feed or play with squirrels; don't play near squirrel burrows or set up your tents around them; and report dead squirrels to camp rangers," said San Diego County Environmental Health Director Liz Pozzebon.
[Plague is prevalent in rodents in the western USA. Humans can be infected through 1) the bite of an infected flea carried by a rodent or, rarely, other animals; 2) direct contact with contaminated tissues; or 3) in rare cases, inhalation of respiratory secretions from infected people or animals.
Plague is a potential bioterrorism agent. Human infections are rare but can be life-threatening. The case fatality rate of plague depends on the whether it attacks the lymph nodes (bubonic), bloodstream ( septicemic)  or lungs (pneumonic). It is also dependent on the timing of initiation of antibiotic therapy.If untreated, the case fatality rate is over 50 per cent for bubonic plague and approaches 100 per cent for pneumonic plague (1). Rapid laboratory identification can help guide therapy.
Domestic cats and dogs can also contract plague from infected fleas. They may carry infected fleas home to their owners or, especially with cats, serve as a direct source of infection. There are many flea treatments and repellents appropriate for pets available. Some products may be suitable for dogs but not cats or may be suitable for an adult but not a younger animal. Be sure to consult your veterinarian, as some products may be toxic to cats, kittens, and puppies, even resulting in fatalities.
Clinical signs in pets involve a localized swelling, such as under the jaw in cats, but also in the inguinal region or under the front leg (the armpit, if you will), lethargy, anorexia, and fever. Please take your pet to a veterinarian if you notice any abnormalities.
Veterinarians should protect themselves by wearing gloves when examining these swellings. A bubo that ruptures may infect the veterinarian or even the pet owner if the pet owner is the one palpating the swelling.
Another form of the disease is the respiratory form. Cats may acquire this form and can spread it to their owners or the veterinarians through infected expiratory droplets. People are also prone to the respiratory infection.
You should also be aware that the fleas that hitchhike into your home on a pet can also transmit disease to you, the owner or caretaker of the pet. Sleeping in the same bed with dogs has been associated with plague in enzootic areas (2). Plague patients with no history of exposure to rodents can be infected by _Y. pestis_ if their pets carry infected rodent fleas into the home. Veterinarians always should recommend flea control to dog and cat owners.
Source ProMED-mail

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