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May 01, 2015

Dog spreads plague to four Colorado residents

This is the first report in the U.S. of a dog infecting humans

Health News Diseases
05012015_Vet_AP Damian Dovarganes/AP

Health officials say this is the first report of a dog infecting a human with the plague in the U.S.

A dog in Colorado spread the plague to four residents back in the summer of 2014, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

An average of eight cases of human plague are reported annually in the United States, primarily in semirural areas in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and California, the CDC reports.

This is the first report of a dog infecting a human with the disease in the U.S., health officials told ABC News.

A 2-year-old American pit bull terrier became ill last summer with a fever, jaw rigidity, drooling and other symptoms. According to health officials, the dog's health declined so rapidly that it was euthanized the following day.

The dog's owner went to the hospital four days later with a fever and bloody cough. The initial blood cultures were misidentified. As the patient's respiratory status deteriorated, he was transferred to another facility, where he required intubation. Further tests revealed a diagnosis of pneumonic plague, according to the CDC report.

"Frankly, one of the biggest surprises of this outbreak is the source," John Douglas, of the Tri-County Health Department in Colorado and one of the study authors, told ABC News. "Primarily ... dogs don’t get sick at all or they get a minor illness [after being infected with the plague]. Pneumonic plague is the worst form. It’s the one that you least want to get."

Three other people had been in close contact with the ill dog. One of them also had contact with its owner. All three subsequently received diagnoses of plague, and all three recovered.

Read the full CDC report here.

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