Human pneumonic plague outbreak has multiple transmission routes
The laboratory identified and confirmed the presence of Yersinia pestis, which causes the plague, in a patient’s blood specimen. The man is currently hospitalized for pneumonia.
The Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) conducted an investigation that showed the patient’s dog recently died from hemoptysis. Additionally, three people who came into direct contact with the dog also contract fevers and respiratory illnesses. Two of these people showed radiographic evidence of pneumonia.
Specimens taken from the dog and the three ill people showed acute Yersinia pestis. Experts state that one of the cases of pneumonia could have been transmitted from the dog owner to the individual. This is the first U.S. transmission of the plague since 1924.
Experts state this is an opportunity for health professionals to consider diagnosing the plague in animals, as well as potential to study relatively mild plague illnesses among patients who already take antimicrobial agents.
An automated system located in the hospital lab previously misdiagnosed the bacterium as Pseudomonas luteola. This outbreak shows that there are limits to current diagnostic systems when they test for rare bacteria, like Yersinia pestis, and they are always in need of improvement.