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Dog Disease Breaks Out; Humans May Be Susceptible
BALTIMORE - A possible outbreak of a dog disease that is spread through urine has veterinarians and pet owners who take their pets to dog parks in East Baltimore worried. Leptospirosis, or lepto, can be passed from rats to dogs and possibly even to humans.

"For a long time, we didn't see lepto in this area so it wasn't much of a concern. A lot of hospitals chose not to vaccinate for it because we weren't seeing the disease. Unfortunately, it has started to surface," said Dr. Elizabeth Berliner, a veterinarian.

Dog parks throughout the city seem to be helping it spread, officials said.

"It certainly seems to be an outbreak. That's what we're concerned about. We have had most of the cases (reported happen) in the last four months," Berliner said.

Officials said dogs get the disease from rat urine left in soil or puddles on concrete. They can pass it to other dogs or people. People can suffer from the same symptoms and conditions as dogs, but officials said humans react better to treatment.

"We see similar kinds of things -- liver failure, kidney problems. They do believe that immuno-compromised individuals are more susceptible, but certainly there have been cases in relatively healthy adults with a lot of exposure," Berliner said.

Officials said a vaccine is available, but that it won't always fix the problem.

"We're all rethinking our vaccine protocols at this point. It's important to know, too, that there are seven types of leptospirosis. The earlier vaccines only vaccinated for two. The current vaccines only vaccinated for four," Berliner said.

Dogs under 20 pounds aren't eligible for the vaccine.

There are no known human cases of lepto in the Baltimore area. Most of the known cases have appeared in the zip code 21224, which includes Patterson Park, officials said.

Berliner said to keep your pet from getting the disease, rinse down concrete back yards and alleys to dilute any possible exposure.

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