Wyoming man becomes first person in 30 years to catch dog disease

A man in Wyoming has been infected with a rare disease spread through dog urine, prompting a CDC investigation.

The unnamed man sought medical help after fainting and spending several days with unexplained fever, nausea, sweating, and body aches. 

Days later, the patient returned to the hospital, and tests revealed he had fluid around his lungs and kidney damage.

After a barrage of tests and learning he worked closely with animals, he was diagnosed with leptospirosis, which kills up to one in six patients. 

Leptocpirosis is spread to humans through contact with contaminated urine from animals like dogs, rats, and livestock

The CDC and the Wyoming Department of Health believe the man was infected through his work, including exposure to three dogs who died mysteriously. 

Their probe also found that Wyoming suffered an outbreak among dogs at the time, with 13 canines testing positive for the disease, and four dying due to severe illness.  

It's believed to be Wyoming's human case of leptospirosis in 30 years. 

Doctors struggled to find the patient's diagnosis because leptospirosis usually spreads in areas with high rainfall and water-saturated soil, making it more common in Applachian states, the upper Midwest, and parts of Texas. 

The Wyoming man was treated with antibiotics and sent home from the hospital days later.  

The experts warned that dogs should be vaccinated against leptospirosis. Lab tests can determine is dogs have antibodies against the disease, indicating vaccination. 

'Lifestyle factors considered to increase dogs’ risk for exposure include contact with livestock or wildlife, time spent in kennel environments, and participation in activities that expose them to standing water or mud such as roaming farmland, hunting, hiking, or swimming,' they wrote. 

And all vets and boarding facilities should properly clean waste to eliminate the spread of infection. 

Leptospirosis is caused by the bacteria Leptospira, which is found in soil and water worldwide but is most common in subtropical areas with high rainfall, such as Australia, Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America. 

When animals such as rats, dogs, or livestock are infected with leptospirosis, they may have no symptoms of the disease. 

But they may continue to excrete the bacteria into the environment continuously or every once in a while for a few months up to several years.

Humans can become infected through contact with urine from infected animals. 

The patient in Wyoming said that he had 'occupational exposure to dogs,' though it's unclear what his job was.  

'The patient did not have a known connection to a canine case but was occupationally exposed to body fluids from multiple dogs, including three that died from unknown causes,' experts wrote in a CDC report. 

The same day the man started experiencing symptoms, three dogs at a local veterinary clinic were diagnosed with leptospirosis. A statewide analysis then ound that 13 cases were reported between August and October 2023. 

Veterinary records and interviews with staff members showed that the sick dogs experienced vomiting, lethargy, and decreased appetite. 

They also had low blood urea nitrogen and serum creatinine levels, indicating kidney injuries.

Four of the dogs were euthanized or died due to severe disease. Five were linked to the same boarding facility from August to September, but officials did not state the name of the operation. 

Leptospirosis infections are not common in the US, with only about 100 to 150 diagnosed every year — of which about 15 percent, or one in six, are fatal.

If not treated, leptospirosis can lead to kidney failure, meningitis, liver damage and respiratory distress. 

There are no vaccines available for humans, though there is a two-dose shot for dogs. The CDC experts stated that the vaccine is usually only recommended for dogs living in high-risk locations, like Appalachian states, the upper Midwest, and central Texas. 

However, the team said that veterinarians are now shifting to vaccinating all dogs. 

The Wyoming patient was treated with oral antibiotics and released from the hospital.  


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