Archive for June 6, 2009

Plague Kills Santa Fe County Child

An ancient enemy takes the life of a child in New Mexico:

Plague claimed the life of an 8-year-old Santa Fe County boy and hospitalized his 10-year-old sister, who is recovering, state health officials said Thursday.

The two are the first reported cases of plague this year in the nation.

“Our sympathies go out to this young boy’s family and friends,” said Health Secretary Dr. Alfredo Vigil. “Unfortunately, plague can be difficult to detect and can quickly escalate in severity.”

New Mexico experienced one non-fatal case of plague in 2008. The had five cases of plague in 2007 and one fatality. Three died of the bacterial illness in 2007, when a total of eight New Mexicans had the disease.

People that move to or live in a plague-endemic area need to be aware of the signs/symptoms of the plague. The disease can progress rapidly and, without prompt antibiotic treatment, prove fatal. Since pneumonic plague progresses so rapidly (a matter of hours), prompt treatment is essential.

Being aware of plague vectors is also important:

Lab tests confirmed plague in a rabbit found at a private residence about a half-mile from the Santa Fe National Cemetery in April. At the time, health officials said that marked the first indication of plague activity in the northern New Mexico county this year.

The Health Department also has investigated cases of plague in a cat near Ojo Caliente in Rio Arriba County and a dog in Taos County.

Those pesky fleas that transmit plague could come from a prairie dog, a dead rat, Senor Don Gato, or Fido.

I have my gardening tools along with big bags of stored ryegrass seed, packaged shavings, etc. in a smallish storage building. A couple weeks ago, I went out to retrieve a particular rake and my nostrils were assailed with the odor of rat urine. My reaction was immediate and instinctive. I slammed the door and retreated, not because I was afraid of the cute little rats, but because I lived in Arizona during the Hantavirus outbreak. In retrospect, I should have cleaned/bleached out that building and burned my shredded seed bags a couple of weeks ago while I still had insurance instead of waiting until my job and insurance coverage were ended!

I imagine that the reaction of people in the plague-prone areas, when confronted with a flea, must be about the same as my reaction to aerosolized rat urine.

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