An honest effort of rescuing dogs might spread deadly rabies nationwide

The United States has led to a national public health warning after a puppy named Crusader rescued from Iraq was found to have rabies.

The rescue mission, Operation Baghdad Pups, was organized by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International, which has brought scores of Iraqi strays to the United States since 2007.

Crusader, an 11-month-old black Labrador mix was among 24 dogs and 2 cats that arrived on a flight to Newark Liberty International Airport on June 5, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday. In its “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,” the center said the flight was part of an international rescue operation intended to reunite American soldiers with pets they had adopted while in Iraq.

Crusader, was adopted by a soldier on a military base in Baghdad seven months earlier, was hospitalized with signs of illness, including fever, diarrhea, wobbly gait, agitation and crying, the report said. On June 10, the remaining animals were shipped to 16 states, including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Texas, Virginia and Pennsylvania, according to the federal report.

The next day, Crusader was euthanized, but delivery of specimens to a state lab in New Jersey was delayed, so its illness was not diagnosed as rabies until June 18. That was a week after the other pets, which may have been exposed to the rabid dog, had been sent to their adoptive homes across the country.

Once Crusader’s illness was diagnosed, C.D.C. officials grew concerned about the possible exposure of anyone who came into contact with the other dogs, including people who attended events welcoming the pets.

Federal and state authorities tracked down the 23 Iraqi dogs and the cat that had been dispersed around the country. They were vaccinated and are now being held for six months in quarantine, where they are being monitored for signs of rabies, the report said. So far none have become sick. Thirteen people have also been advised to get preventive treatment for rabies.

Source: The New York Times

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