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Puppies Rescued From Puerto Rico May Have Infection That Can Be Transmitted to Humans

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Health officials in New Hampshire are warning residents after a puppy brought to the state from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico tested positive for a bacterial infection that can be transmitted to humans.

Of a group of 10 puppies that were rescued and transported to New Hampshire and Vermont on Nov. 9, five have since become sick, according to a news release issued by the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. One dog has tested positive for leptospirosis, a potentially serious infection that affects both animals and humans.

On Nov. 12, a number of the puppies interacted with diners at Ramunto’s Brick and Brew Pizzeria in Hanover, N.H, according to the news release. The New Hampshire and Vermont health departments are investigating other possible exposures, and have notified the households that took in the puppies.

“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,” New Hampshire State Epidemiologist Benjamin Chan said in the statement.

Leptospirosis is spread through exposure to the urine of animals that have been infected by the bacteria Leptospira, according to the CDC. Human-to-human transmission is rare; most often, humans contract the disease after coming into contact, directly or indirectly, with animals’ bodily fluids, or water tainted by these fluids, the agency says.

The disease is quite uncommon in the U.S., according to the CDC, though transmission grows more common after natural disasters, including hurricanes, when bacteria levels are high and contaminated water or soil is prevalent.

Symptoms in humans include fever, chills, headaches, body aches, jaundice, abdominal pain, diarrhea and a rash, the CDC says. If taken early in the disease’s progression, antibiotics are usually enough to treat leptospirosis.

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Write to Jamie Ducharme at jamie.ducharme@time.com