The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) on Monday announced it had confirmed two new cases of human plague in the state’s borders.
The agency reported that a 52-year-old woman and a 62-year-old woman in New Mexico’s Santa Fe County are sick with the bacterial disease.
The NMDOH added that there are now three human plague instances in the county this year, with all requiring hospitalization but none resulting in death.
“Pets that are allowed to roam and hunt can bring infected fleas from dead rodents back into the home, putting you and your children at risk,” Dr. Paul Ettestad, public health veterinarian for the NMDOH, said in a statement Monday.
“Keeping your pets at home or on a leash and using an appropriate flea control product is important to protect you and your family.”
Twitter users on Tuesday voiced surprise at the reported cases of human plague, which is spread through direct contact with infected animals, usually fleas.
The NMDOH said that it had conducted environmental investigations around the patients’ homes to ensure the public’s ongoing safety.
Symptoms of human plague reportedly include chills, headache, weakness and the sudden onset of fever.
The sickness is purportedly a bacterial disease of rodents, but can also be spread by infected fleas, pets, and other wildlife.
The NMDOH additionally reported that there four human plague cases in 2016 across New Mexico’s Bernalillo, Mora, and Rio Arriba Counties with no fatalities.
Bernalillo and Santa Fe Counties reportedly experienced four cases in 2015, with one resulting in death.