Plague and hantavirus do exist in New Mexico, but are quite rare in Sandia Heights. Read on to learn more about these diseases and about how take simple precautions to reduce your risk.
Plague is a naturally occurring disease affecting wild rabbits and rodents that is spread to animals and humans by the bites of infected fleas. When an animal with plague dies, the fleas must find a new host. The new host may be a wild animal, a pet, or a person.
Human plague cases are extremely rare. In all of Bernalillo County, there were 37 cases of human plague in the 62 years from 1949 to 2011. This equates to a little more than one case every two years. Taking precautions like not handling dead rabbits and rodents and not allowing cats to hunt will drastically reduce your risk of exposure. Keeping cats indoors also means they won’t become prey to coyotes, bobcats, hawks, and owls.
The New Mexico Department of Health publishes an informative brochure about plague that you can find at their website http://www.cdc.gov/plague/index.html. If you find a sick or dead rodent or rabbit with no signs of trauma or poisoning, do not touch it. Call Albuquerque Environmental Health Department at 505-768-2600.
Hantavirus is carried primarily by deer mice. It is transmitted to humans when they inhale the dried saliva, urine, or feces of infected rodents, and causes hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a severe respiratory illness that can be deadly. Many cases of hantivirus pulmonary syndrome resulted from someone cleaning out a mouse-infested storage shed. For more information about hantavirus please visit the New Mexico Department of Health website: http://www.cdc.gov/hantavirus/.
Hantavirus is even more rare than is plague. To our knowledge, there has never been a case of human hantavirus in Sandia Heights. In the 36 years between 1975 and 2011, there have been only two cases of hantavirus in Bernalillo County.