The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have revealed that a dog recently spread the pneumonic plague to four Americans. It’s the first time that’s ever happened in the United States.
The dog, a two-year-old pit bull from rural Colorado, reportedly developed a fever in June 2014. Symptoms included rigid jaw, excessive drooling, and cough producing blood. With conditions worsening, the dog’s owner was forced to put the animal down.
Unfortunately, the dog’s illness lived on. Within a few days its owner began feeling ill and showed many of the same symptoms as his deceased dog. After visiting a local hospital he was diagnosed with pneumonia. But after treatments for that illness failed, the patient was transferred to another medical facility and diagnosed with pneumonic plague.
This particular type of the plague is both frightening and painful. Patients develop large and very sore boils. In the past, the disease has been spread by fleas and rodents, not dogs. And, because the first patient was initially misdiagnosed, he faced a very long road to recovery. According to the CDC, the man required intubation in order to breathe and spent more than three weeks in the hospital.
That has led the CDC to insist that more needs to be done to accurately detect this and other serious illnesses. “Delayed recognition because of inaccurate laboratory tests…can lead to high numbers of potential exposures,” CDC researchers recently noted. This case “reinforces the need for critical evaluation of results from automated systems.”
Eventually, three other people contracted the disease. The CDC says that at least one of these cases resulted from human-to-human transmission of the disease, something that hasn’t happened in more than 90 years.
The good news is that, after receiving antibiotics, all four of the plagued patients experienced full recoveries.