Dog-associated risk factors for human plague

Gould LH, Pape J, Ettestad P, Griffith KS, Mead PS.
Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bacterial Diseases Branch, Fort Collins, CO, USA.
Plague is a rare but often fatal zoonosis endemic to the western United States. Previous studies have identified contact with pets as a potential risk factor for infection. We conducted a matched case-control study to better define the risks associated with pets at both the household and individual levels. Using a written questionnaire, we surveyed nine surviving plague patients, 12 household members of these patients, and 30 age- and neighbourhood-matched controls about household and individual exposures. Overall, 79% of households had at least one dog, 59% had at least one cat and 33% used flea control, with no significant differences between case and control households. Four (44%) case households reported having a sick dog versus no (0%) control households [matched odds ratio, (mOR) 18.5, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.3-infinity], and four (44%) patients reported sleeping in the same bed with a pet dog versus three (10%) controls (mOR 5.7, 95% CI 1.0-31.6). Within case households with multiple members, two (40%) of five patients slept with their dogs versus none (0%) of 12 healthy family members (P=0.13). The exposures to cats were not significant. Sleeping in the same bed as a pet dog remained significantly associated with infection in a multivariate logistic regression model (P=0.046). Our findings suggest that dogs may facilitate the transfer of fleas into the home and that activities with close extended contacts with dogs may increase the risk of plague infection.
[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]