Abstract

An outbreak of seven cases of bubonic plague in New Mexico was investigated. Clinical features were studied and correlated with field studies in an attempt to determine the source of infection in patients with indefinite histories of exposure. Most patients presented with fever, malaise, and an acute painful lymphadenitis (bubo). One death occurred in a patient with bubonic-septicemic plague complicated by meningitis due to Yersinia pestis. All patients lived in rural or semirural areas, and most had been in the general vicinity of their usual residence during the six days prior to onset of symptoms. The outbreak was associated with probable epizootics in rodents in two different areas of the state. One case was traced to direct hand contact with plague-infected rabbits. One patient developed insect bites after sleeping in the same bed with a flea-infested cat. Three of the other five patients had insect bites, presumably flea bites, but none of the five recalled contact with rodents or rabbits. Four of the five, however, had been in contact with dogs or cats that were later shown to have titers of antibody to Y. pestis. These findings provide further support for the hypothesis that contact with domestic dogs and cats may result in direct or indirect transmission of Y. pestis to humans.

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