A New Mexico teen has contracted the plague, and he is the first reported case in the U.S. this year.
It is unclear how the 15-year-old boy, of Torrance County in central New Mexico, contracted the rare and potentially fatal bacterial disease. The teen has been in stable condition in the hospital, the Los Angeles Times reported.
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The plague is a bacterial disease found in rodents that is transmitted to humans through bites from infected fleas or through direct contact with infected animals.
Without immediate treatment, the disease could cause serious illness or death.
Health officials say they have been talking to neighbors of the teen about the case and how to protect themselves from it.
“Health care providers and others close to the patient may also have been exposed, and are assessed to determine if they need preventive treatment,” Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward said in a statement obtained by the LA Times.
The plague can be deadly, but antibiotics are usually effective in fighting the disease. Symptoms include fever, headaches, chills, and painfully swollen glands in the groin, armpit, or neck areas.
In July, a squirrel in a Los Angeles National Forest tested positive for the disease.
“Plague activity in New Mexico is usually highest during the summer months, so it is especially important now to take precautions to avoid rodents and their fleas, which can expose you to plague,” Dr. Paul Ettestad, public health veterinarian for the health department told KOB-TV.
KOB-TV reported nine human plague cases since 2009, one of which was fatal.
In the last few decades, an average of seven human plague cases have been reported annually, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
The agency said the disease was first introduced to the U.S. in 1900 by rat-infested steamships that had sailed from affected areas, mostly from Asia. The last urban plague epidemic in the U.S. occurred in Los Angeles from 1924 through 1925.
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