9.2 Plague, West Nile Virus, and Hantavirus Outbreaks

This indicator looks at the number of Zoonotic disease cases (plague, West Nile virus, hantavirus, and rabies).
This indicator is part of Good public health.

Indicator description:

Zoonotic diseases are those diseases that can be transmitted from animals to people, sometimes by a vector such as an insect or rodent. Zoonotic diseases in New Mexico and Bernalillo County include plague, West Nile Virus, hantavirus and rabies. From 1990-2006, 124 cases of plague were reported in the United States; of those, 67 occurred in New Mexico, and ten occurred in Bernalillo County. Hantavirus has been reported in New Mexico, with 195 cases occurring between 1993-2006. The cases occurred primarily in the Four Corners region, although two occurred in Bernalillo County. The first human cases of West Nile Virus in New Mexico were reported in 2003, when there were a total of 209 cases. Of the total 228 New Mexico cases between 2003-2006, 55 of them occurred in Bernalillo County. The last human rabies case in New Mexico occurred in 1956.

Bernalillo County - Number of Cases
2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Plague Cases 0 0 0 1 5 2 0 2 0 0
Hantavirus Cases 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
West Nile Virus 0 35 17 3 0 10 1 0 1 0

Why is this indicator relevant?

Zoonotic diseases are a serious concern in New Mexico and Bernalillo County, as many of these diseases are potentially fatal. Many modern diseases and epidemics began as zoonotic diseases. It is hard to be certain which diseases jumped from animals to humans, but there is good evidence that measles, smallpox, influenza, and diphtheria started this way. Education and prevention, coupled with prompt recognition by physicians and adequate surveillance of zoonotic diseases, can help to prevent transmission and provide advance warning of disease outbreaks prior to increased rates of infection and death.

Data Sources:
Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Disease Division, Albuquerque Environmental Health Department; Infectious Diseases in New Mexico, NM Department of Health.

What can we tell from the data?

  • Since 1990, New Mexico accounts for more than half (54%) of the plague cases in the United States. Approximately 15% of New Mexico's plague cases occurred in Bernalillo County.
  • West Nile Virus first appeared in humans in New Mexico in 2003, with 209 cases that year. 2007 saw an increase in West Nile Virus, but has since declined sharply.
  • Hantavirus is present in New Mexico, although only two cases have occurred in Bernalillo County of the 195 cases in New Mexico.
  • The last human rabies case in New Mexico occurred in 1956.


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