Bubonic Plague from Direct Exposure to a Naturally Infected Wild Coyote

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  • Bureau of Epidemiology, Center for Disease Control, Plague Branch, Vector-Borne Diseases Division, Bureau of Laboratories, Center for Disease Control, Insect and Rodent Control Section, Environmental Improvement Agency, New Mexico Health and Social Services Department, Department of Pediatrics, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia 30333

An 11-year-old boy developed axillary bubonic plague and plague meningitis 3 days after skinning a dead coyote near Albuquerque, New Mexico. The coyote carcass was recovered 10 days later, and Yersinia pestis was isolated from spleen and marrow of the animal. This is the first report of human plague from exposure to a coyote. A review of experimental and epidemiologic studies suggests that severe plague infection in members of the family Canidae is unusual, and that the risk of acquiring plague from direct contact with coyote tissues is minimal. Nevertheless, certain precautions are outlined for persons working with wild coyotes.

Author Notes

EIS Officer, located in the New Mexico Health and Social Services Department. Present address: Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Hospital, Boston, MA 02215.