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Pit bull is patient zero in Colorado’s cases of plague

A pit bull was at the heart of a rare plague outbreak in Colorado that left four people sick last year. That’s what a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention investigation found in a new report released April 30.

The CDC says on average about eight people get the plague every year in the United States. While it still can be life threatening, with modern medicine it is not the death sentence it was back in the Middle Ages when millions died. Antibiotics and antimicrobials can clear it up.

In last summer’s incident, what stands out is the possible human-to-human transmission, according to the investigation. That hasn’t happened in the United States since 1924. Earlier studies have shown that pneumonic plague, even its most severe form, can be transmitted person-to-person, but it is rare. And the dog-to-human transmission was unexpected according to the local health department. The team that investigated the case said that they could only find one other case of dog to human transmission in the medical literature. That was a 2009 case in China.