FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Officials at Colorado State University are warning those who were in contact with a plague-infested dog to watch for symptoms of the infection.
In a letter emailed to students and staff Tuesday, school officials said a limited number of people at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Fort Collins might have been exposed to Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that causes plague.
The potential exposure is a result of an infected dog that was admitted to the hospital for treatment but had to be euthanized after its condition worsened. It’s not clear how the dog contracted the disease.
Dr. Mark Stetter, the head of the school’s veterinary program, said the situation was a complex case because some of the dog’s symptoms were atypical for the plague.
However, as soon as tests came back positive for the illness, the hospital took immediate steps to notify people who may have been exposed.
There are three main types of plague: pneumonic, bubonic and septicemic. The dog had pneumonic plague.
"That tends to be fairly treatable, but the faster you are diagnosed, the less long-term treatment you need,” said Katie O'Donnell, a spokesperson with the Larimer County Health Department.
Officials say those who may have been exposed to the bacteria can be easily treated with antibiotics if the infection is caught early. The timeframe for showing symptoms of the illness after exposure is up to seven days, but can occur in a much shorter time frame.
The school has provided information on symptoms and antibiotics to those at risk. It has also reached out to the owners of 59 other pets that shared space in the veterinary hospital.
The plague is commonly found in rodents in Colorado, including the Fort Collins area, but is an extremely rare diagnosis in dogs, Dr. Stetter said in the letter.
Plague usually spreads via a bite from an infected flea specific to rodents.