The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is investigating a group of 10 puppies potentially infected with leptospirosis that were imported to Vermont and New Hampshire from Puerto Rico on November 9. On November 12, a number of these puppies were brought to the outdoor patio at Ramunto’s Brick and Brew Pizzeria at 9 South Street in Hanover, NH, where patrons were able to interact with them. Since coming to the area, five of these puppies have become sick and one tested positive for leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that can be transmitted from animals to humans and other pets.

“Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted from animals to people usually through direct contact with an infected animal’s urine, or contact with environments that have been contaminated by animal urine,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan. “Individuals or pets who may have come into contact with these puppies should speak to their healthcare providers and veterinarians about whether antibiotics may be needed to prevent leptospirosis infection.”

Leptospirosis cases rise in Puerto Rico, May become more prevalent

Patrons at Ramunto’s who did not interact with the puppies are not at risk for infection. All households that received one of the 10 puppies have been contacted. DHHS is collaborating with the Vermont Department of Health and the NH Department of Agriculture to investigate additional animal and human exposures.

Leptospirosis occurs worldwide, and although it is rare in the United States, infections are known to increase after flooding and natural disasters like hurricanes when humans and animals come into contact with water and soil that has been contaminated with the urine of infected animals. The bacteria enter a person’s body through the skin or mucous membranes, especially if the skin is broken from a cut or scratch. Person to person transmission is rare. Symptoms of leptospirosis in humans are variable and can be very mild to severe. Early symptoms typically include fever, flu-like symptoms, and gastrointestinal illness. A minority of individuals can go on to develop severe symptoms including liver failure, kidney failure, and central nervous system infection (meningitis). Antibiotics are available to both treat and prevent infection.

Individuals and families who adopt pets from other countries or U.S. territories like Puerto Rico should be aware of the risks of importing animals, and these animals should undergo the appropriate veterinary inspection and quarantine to prevent the spread of diseases such as leptospirosis.

Puerto Rico crisis: What are the infectious disease risks post-Hurricane Maria