— Public health officials are warning anyone who interacted with rescue puppies from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico at a Hanover restaurant last Sunday to call their doctors after one puppy tested positive for a potentially serious bacterial infection.
The state health department issued the warning Friday about the risk of contracting leptospirosis from the animals.
The 10 puppies had been brought to the outdoor patio at Ramunto’s Brick & Brew Pizzeria, 9 South St., where patrons interacted with them, according to a news release.
Five of the puppies later got sick and one tested positive for leptospirosis. Officials have since contacted all of the households that adopted the puppies. The health department also is working with its sister agency in Vermont and the New Hampshire Department of Agriculture to investigate other potential animal and human exposures.
Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted from animals to humans. It occurs worldwide and is rare in the United States, but infections can increase after flooding or natural disasters such as hurricanes, when animals and humans come into contact with contaminated water and soil.
Dr. Benjamin Chan, state epidemiologist, said the disease is usually spread through direct contact with an infected animal’s urine or environments contaminated by urine.
Antibiotics are used to both treat and prevent infection. Chan said anyone who came into contact with the puppies, or whose pets may have done so, “should speak to their health care providers and veterinarians about whether antibiotics may be needed to prevent leptospirosis infection.”
The bacteria that causes leptospirosis enters a person’s body through skin or mucous membranes, especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch.
Symptoms of leptospirosis in humans can range from very mild to severe.
Early symptoms typically include fever, flu-like symptoms and gastrointestinal illness, but a “minority” of patients can go on to develop severe symptoms such as liver and kidney failure and meningitis, according to the news release.
Officials also warn residents of the risks of importing animals from other countries or U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, noting these animals should undergo veterinary inspection and quarantine to prevent the spread of diseases.
Anyone with questions about leptospirosis can call the state Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at 271-4496. More information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov