WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A pet dog in Colorado suffering from lethargy and fever has exposed more than 100 veterinary workers to Black Death plague in December 2017.
- The dog was found sniffing a dead prairie dog — an animal known to carry the bacteria.
- Vets subjected the dog to repeated tests and confirmed the diagnosis, forcing them to put down the dog.
A pet dog brought into a veterinary clinic in Colorado has been discovered to be exposed to a centuries-old disease. In December 2017, a three-year-old mixed-breed dog was brought in to a clinic for lethargy and fever. According to a case study in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, the dog tested positive for the Black Death plague.
The dog started to cough up blood after being given an antibiotic. The pet owner told the vets their dog was seen sniffing a dead prairie dog, which sometimes carries the plague bacteria Yersinia pestis.
The vets initially thought this was an extremely unlikely diagnosis because infections usually occur between April and October and that cats are more susceptible than dogs.
After two days, the dog was tested for plague bacteria, then after a standard testing protocol for plague from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it came back positive for the most serious and dangerous type of the disease called pneumonic plague. This type can spread to both animals and humans through water droplets from spit.
Sadly, the dog has to be put down because he wasn’t responding to treatment. But, 116 veterinary staff had already been exposed to the dog’s bacteria.
Black Death plague has killed up to 200 million people between 1347 to 1351. According to history, it has spread in fleas carried by black rats on trade ships throughout Eurasia and Europe. The bubonic plague has a mortality rate of 30-60%, while the pneumonic form is always fatal if not untreated, according to the World Health Organization.
Symptoms of the plague include fever, chills, weakness, vomiting, headache, and inflamed lymph nodes. The pneumonic plague can cause severe respiratory symptoms and often cause infected people to cough up blood.
Fortunately, none of the veterinary staff were infected with the plague bacteria from the dog, but the report said vets should be aware animals can get infected all year round.