Three people in New Mexico have been infected with plague this month, which is close to the number of plague cases that the state saw in all of 2016, according to health officials.
This week, the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) reported two cases of plague — one in a 52-year-old woman and one in a 62-year-old woman, both living in Santa Fe County, in the northern part of the state. Earlier in June, the state reported a case of plague in a 63-year-old man, also living in Santa Fe County. All three people were hospitalized, but all of them survived, NMDOH officials said.
In 2016, New Mexico reported four cases of plague over the entire year, and in 2015, the state also reported four plague cases.
The plague, which is caused by a type of bacteria called Yersinia pestis, is perhaps best known for killing millions of people in Europe in the 1300s, in a pandemic called the Black Death. Today, the infection is relatively rare in the United States, with an average of seven plague cases reported yearly in the U.S. between 1970 and 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2015, there was an unusually high number of plague cases in the United States — 16 in total, according to the CDC.