A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that a small outbreak of pneumonic plague in Colorado last year was caused by a dog infected with the disease. The organization says this is first ever incidence of a human contracting the disease from a dog in the US, and it may be the first case of human-to-human plague transmission in the country in almost a century.
On 8th July, 2014, a middle-aged man from Colorado was hospitalized with pneumonia after developing a severe fever and a cough.
The hospital to which the man had been admitted initially identified Pseudomonas luteola as the bacteria responsible for his illness using an automated diagnostic system, but as the man’s symptoms worsened, further testing conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) found a bacteria called Yersinia pestis was the cause – a form of pneumonic plague.
An investigation conducted by the Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) involving interviews with the man’s family revealed that on June 24th, the man’s dog – a 2-year-old male American pit bull terrier – fell severely ill with fever and shortness of breath and was coughing up blood. The dog was euthanized the following day.
The dog’s liver and lung tissues were tested for presence of Y. pestis after its owner became ill. The results were positive, confirming that the man had contracted pneumonic plague from the animal – the first report of such an incidence in the US.
The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) report also reveals that two veterinary clinic employees who had close contact with the dog and a female who was a close contact of the dog’s owner became ill with the disease.
Since the last patient had contact with both the dog and its owner, the CDC say it is unclear how she contracted the disease. They note, however, that this patient was exposed to the dog’s owner during an incubation period of 5-6 days, while exposure to the infected dog occurred during an incubation period of 9-10 days.
“The shorter incubation period is more typical of plague and therefore supports human-to-human transmission,” say the report authors. “Nevertheless, transmission from the dog cannot be excluded given the animal’s role in the other three infections and because incubation periods of up to 10 days have been reported, although rarely.”
All infected patients have made a full recovery following treatment with antibiotics.
Author: Honor Whiteman. Full story here.