NYMC Faculty Publications


Public Health Response to an Imported Case of Canine Melioidosis

Document Type


Publication Date

June 2018


Epidemiology and Community Health


Melioidosis in humans presents variably as fulminant sepsis, pneumonia, skin infection and solid organ abscesses. It is caused by Burkholderia pseudomallei, which in the United States is classified as a select agent, with "potential to pose a severe threat to both human and animal health, to plant health or to animal and plant products" (Federal Select Agent Program, http://www.selectagents.gov/, accessed 22 September 2016). Burkholderia pseudomallei is found in soil and surface water in the tropics, especially South-East Asia and northern Australia, where melioidosis is endemic. Human cases are rare in the United States and are usually associated with travel to endemic areas. Burkholderia pseudomallei can also infect animals. We describe a multijurisdictional public health response to a case of subclinical urinary B. pseudomallei infection in a dog that had been adopted into upstate New York from a shelter in Thailand. Investigation disclosed three human contacts with single, low-risk exposures to the dog's urine at his residence, and 16 human contacts with possible exposure to his urine or culture isolates at a veterinary hospital. Contacts were offered various combinations of symptom/fever monitoring, baseline and repeat B. pseudomallei serologic testing, and antibiotic post-exposure prophylaxis, depending on the nature of their exposure and their personal medical histories. The dog's owner accepted recommendations from public health authorities and veterinary clinicians for humane euthanasia. A number of animal rescue organizations actively facilitate adoptions into the United States of shelter dogs from South-East Asia. This may result in importation of B. pseudomallei into almost any community, with implications for human and animal health.