(CBS) – Doctors and veterinarians are warning about a hidden threat from a deadly bacteria that people can contract from their dogs. A growing number of pets are getting the infection, and it’s easily spread and often missed.
Olga Alicia treasures even the remains of her beloved dog, Asya.
“Every day, she will always be in my heart,” Olga said. “Never had a daughter. That was my daughter.”
The 5-year-old pit bull terrier died from a bacterial infection called leptospirosis, and it’s striking a growing number of pets.
Dr. Nahvid Etedali of Penn Vet said leptospirosis is “something that exists in the environment and can last for a very long time in the environment.”
The bacteria is transmitted by animal urine. “All it takes is one blade of grass and one drop of urine,” Dr. Etedali said.
It’s rare, but humans can also get leptospirosis. “It is something that’s zoonotic,” Dr. Etedali said. “That means it’s transmissible from animal to person.”
If you grab a dog toy that’s been in the yard and have a cut, or eat something before washing your hands, the bacteria could be transmitted. It can even spread while doing yard work. It’s gross to think about, but animal urine is all over the place outside.
It can be inside, too. Leptospirosis is blamed for the February death of a man in a Bronx apartment building. Rats apparently brought the bacteria in.
The CDC says in humans, leptospirosis can cause a wide range of symptoms: high fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting, yellowing skin and eyes from jaundice, red eyes, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and a rash. Sometimes, leptospirosis causes no symptoms at all. It also can be mistaken for other diseases. Left untreated, it can cause organ damage and death.