Puppies from Puerto Rico pose health risk, after being diagnosed with bacterial infection

Dogs were imported to Vermont, New Hampshire

HANOVER, N.H. - Puppies who made their way from Puerto Rico to Vermont and New Hampshire were found to be infected, or at risk for a bacterial infection.

New Hampshire's Department of Health and Human Services says ten puppies could potentially have the bacterial infection, known as leptospirosis, which can be transmitted from animals to humans and other pets.

DHHS is collaborating with the Vermont Department of Public Health.

The department's public health veterinarian Natalie Kwit says while the risk for humans to become infected is small, it can still occur by coming into direct contact with an infected animal's urine.

"So that means cleaning up after urine and not washing your hands. There's a bigger risk if you have open cuts in the skin, or if you don't wash your hands and you touch your mucus membranes like your mouth, if you ingest it," said Kwit.

The puppies were imported on November 9.

On November 12, DHHS says a number of these puppies were brought to the outdoor patio at Ramunto’s Brick and Brew Pizzeria at 9 South Street in Hanover, NH, where patrons were able to interact with them.

Since coming to the area, the agency says five of these puppies have become sick and one tested positive for leptospirosis.

DHHS says patrons at Ramunto’s who did not interact with the puppies are not at risk for infection, and all households that received one of the ten puppies have been contacted.

In Vermont, dogs were fostered in Orange and Windsor counties.

Kwit says 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.

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.

Early symptoms typically include fever, flu-like symptoms, and gastrointestinal illness.

Kwit adds some can develop severe symptoms like liver failure, kidney failure, and central nervous system infection, like meningitis.

Antibiotics are available to both treat and prevent infection.

DHHS and VDH are collaborating with the NH Department of Agriculture to investigate additional animal and human exposures.

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 at www.cdc.gov.


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