Socioeconomic Correlates of Plague ID’d in New Mexico

(HealthDay News) – Changing socioeconomic indicators seem to correlate with temporal changes in the distribution of Yersinia pestis (Y. pestis) cases in New Mexico.

To examine the association between socioeconomic factors and plague risk, Anna M. Schotthoefer, from the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues used data from the U.S. Census Bureau to compare census block groups (CBGs) in which human plague cases occurred and did not occur in New Mexico during 1976–2007. Analyses included 123 cases of plague reported during the study period.

The researchers found that plague risk correlated positively with CBGs that had an ecotone habitat suitable for human plague cases. In addition, temporal trends were identified in the socioeconomic factors associated with the location of cases. In the 1980s, plague tended to occur in poor housing areas; in the 1990s, cases were associated with CBGs with higher median incomes; and by the 2000s, wealthier CBGs correlated with plague cases. In the 1980s, cases were widely distributed throughout New Mexico; by the 1990s, cases were focused in the north-central region, specifically Santa Fe-Albuquerque. Migration of middle- to upper-class families into suitable plague habitat in high-risk areas correlated with the shift in the location of cases.

“Our results confirmed the role of living in or near habitats that support maintenance of sylvatic plague as a risk factor for human Y. pestis infection, but also suggested migration of middle- to upper-class families into such areas may be contributing to changes in the locations of plague cases,” the authors write.

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