Had a long day? Would cuddling a puppy make it better? Not so fast, unless you want to get the plague! Because puppies have plague now, apparently, and the world is filled with sadness.
Tomorrow, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, will confirm that a mini-outbreak last year in eastern Colorado was caused by man’s most adorable best friend. In June 2014, a 2-year-old pit bull was brought to the vet with “bloody mucus.” The poor little pittie was in rough shape and sadly, had to be put to sleep.
A few days later, the dog’s grieving owner came down with a fever and started coughing up blood—the man was initially misdiagnosed with pneumonia. Three other people soon reported symptoms, including two workers at the veterinarian clinic that treated the dog and a female friend of the dog’s owner who had “extended close contact” with the man. After the pup’s remains were tested, authorities confirmed that, yep, man and beast had the same disease that killed millions of people in the Middle Ages.
The dog most likely contracted the disease from a flea from some prairie rodent. The dog’s owner and the vet clinic workers could have also been infected by fleabite, but the friend of the owner could have been infected by the man himself, making her “the first instance of possible human-to-human transmission, since an outbreak in Los Angeles in 1924,” according to the report. Lucky girl.
NPR spoke to Dr. John Douglas Jr., executive director of the Tri-County Health Department, and the doctor said, “Hopefully, plague will not re-emerge as it did in the Middle Ages.” Yes, hopefully the horrifying disease that causes fever, chills, vomiting, bleeding from the mouth, and blackening of the fingertips will not re-emerge. Hopefully!
The good news is that when plague patients are treated early, the prognosis can be good. All four of the human patients in the 2014 mini-outbreak survived their ordeal and the two vet clinic workers only needed minimal hospitalization.
The other good news is that plague is very rare—the United States only had 74 cases of plague reported from 1900 and 2012, so your chances of getting sick from cuddling your dog are very low.
We should also note that any animal could carry fleas, before you do something drastic like declaring yourself a cat person.