Plague-Infected Pit Bull Spreads Disease To Humans For First Time

A pit bull terrier infected with pneumonic plague has spread the disease to four Colorado residents, marking the first time that humans have been infected with the contagion by a dog in the U.S.

According to ABC News, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that a 2-year-old pit bull became infected with the disease last year, displaying symptoms of fever and jaw rigidity. The dog was euthanized just a day after falling ill, according to health officials, as it began coughing up blood and its condition quickly declined.

Four days after the pit bull died, the dog's owner arrived at a hospital complaining of fever and a bloody cough. Though the initial blood culture failed to identify the disease, a second test confirmed that the patient was suffering from pneumonic plague. Examination of the pit bull's remains found that the dog had also been suffering from the plague, confirming its identity as the source of the bacterial infection.

While plague is common among prairie dogs found in the American Midwest, as the Inquisitr previously reported, doctors are particularly astonished at the vector of transmission for the disease in this case. According to Janine Runfola of the Tri-County Health Department in Colorado, who is also lead author of the report on the plague case, it is far more likely that cats would infect humans with the disease.

"For pneumonic plague a more likely scenario would be you have a cat [play] with prairie dogs and infected fleas get on the cat. The cat gets sick and sneezes and coughs on its owner."

Pneumonic plague is the most dangerous form of the disease, according to NBC News, because it can be spread through close contact. Infected individuals release blood and mucus particles when they cough, potentially communicating it to other people and animals nearby.

Following a 23-day-long hospital stay, the pit bull's owner recovered from the disease, which though deadly, can be treated with antibiotics. In addition, two veterinary employees who handled the pit bull and a woman who was in close contact with the owner all displayed symptoms of plague but were successfully treated.

[Photo by Getty Images]