NMDOH reports animal cases of plague and tularemia
“We are seeing high populations of rodents and rabbits in many areas of New Mexico this spring,” Paul Ettestad, public health veterinarian for the NMDOH, said. “Both tularemia and plague can circulate in these rodent populations causing them to become sick and die. Dogs and cats can be infected with plague and tularemia through hunting rodents and rabbits, or by exposure to their fleas or ticks.”
The department warns that animal cases occur on a near yearly basis, and that residents should be cautious and avoid rabbits and rodents if possible. Fleas and ticks from these animals are prone to spread the diseases.
The NMDOH recommends that pets should be prevented from roaming and hunting, and that your veterinarian should determine a flea and tick prevention product that is safe for your pet. Children and adults should not handle wildlife that is sick or dead, and stockpiles of wood, hay and compost should be kept away from the home. Mowing should be avoided near a deceased animal as this can aerosolize the bacteria.
Dog and cat symptoms of either disease include lethargy, fever and loss of appetite. In humans, symptoms include fever, chills and weakness. Disease-specific symptoms include painful swelling in the lymph nodes or groin in the case of plague. Tularemia consists of swelling and ulcers.
Residents and pets should be taken to their respective physician or veterinarian in case of suspected infection.