CONCORD, N.H. (CBS) – Two puppies from Puerto Rico suspected of carrying a bacterial infection that can spread to humans have been euthanized.
The puppies were among a group of 10 puppies brought to Vermont and New Hampshire from Puerto Rico on Nov. 9.
State health officials began investigating after one of the puppies tested positive for leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that can be transmitted from animals to humans and other pets.
While all of the puppies were vaccinated against leptospirosis before leaving Puerto Rico, several began showing symptoms of the illness within the past week, said Aimee Goodwin, director of Surfin’ Sato, an animal welfare group helping to rescue animals in Puerto Rico. The remaining eight puppies are responding well to antibiotics and are being placed for adoption, Goodwin said.
Rodents can also carry and spread the bacteria that causes this disease, and the puppies may have had their water supply contaminated due to a rodent outbreak in Puerto Rico, Goodwin said.
Some of the puppies were brought to the outdoor patio at Ramunto’s Brick and Brew Pizzeria at 9 South St. in Hanover, N.H. on Nov. 12, and patrons were able to interact with them. The restaurant owner told WBZ-TV Friday that none of the puppies that were brought to the restaurant event had tested positive for leptospirosis at the time. Goodwin said the puppies did not show any signs of illness until after the Hanover event.
“Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted from animals to people usually through direct contact with an infected animal’s urine, or contact with environments that have been contaminated by animal urine,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan. “Individuals or pets who may have come into contact with these puppies should speak to their healthcare providers and veterinarians about whether antibiotics may be needed to prevent leptospirosis infection.”
Patrons at Ramunto’s who did not interact with the puppies are not at risk for infection, officials said. All households that received one of the 10 puppies have been contacted. New Hampshire state health officials are working with the Vermont Department of Health and the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture to investigate additional animal and human exposures.
Leptospirosis occurs worldwide, and although it is rare in the United States, infections are known to increase after flooding and natural disasters like hurricanes when humans and animals come into contact with water and soil that has been contaminated with the urine of infected animals.
The bacteria enter a person’s body through the skin or mucous membranes, especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch. Person to person transmission is rare.
Symptoms of leptospirosis in humans are variable and can be very mild to severe. Early symptoms typically include fever, flu-like symptoms, and gastrointestinal illness. A minority of individuals can go on to develop severe symptoms including liver failure, kidney failure, and central nervous system infection or meningitis. Antibiotics are available to both treat and prevent infection.
Individuals and families who adopt pets from other countries or U.S. territories like Puerto Rico should be aware of the risks of importing animals, and these animals should undergo the appropriate veterinary inspection and quarantine to prevent the spread of diseases such as leptospirosis.
Anyone with questions about leptospirosis can call the New Hampshire Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at 603-271-4496. More information is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.