Bacterial Outbreak in 7 States Linked to Pet-Store Puppies

By Jane Werrell
Jane Werrell
Jane Werrell
Jane Werrell is a reporter for NTD based in the UK.
September 12, 2017 Updated: September 12, 2017

An outbreak of Campylobacter infections has been linked to puppies sold at national pet store chain Petland, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Monday.

Thirty-nine people across seven states—Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin—have been hit with the outbreak since September 2016. Nine were hospitalized, but there have been no deaths.

Of the 39 infected, 12 are Petland employees from four states, and 27 had either recently purchased a puppy at Petland or had been in contact with a puppy sold through Petland before their symptoms emerged.

“Last week the CDC advised Petland to “continue to do what we are already doing” and to continue to educate customers and staff to sanitize their hands after handling our puppies,” Petland said in a statement. “The CDC has not identified any failures of Petland’s operating system that would lead to any campylobacter infection.”

Petland is cooperating with animal officials and health officials to investigate the outbreak, the CDC said, and an investigation is underway.

Epoch Times Photo
People with confirmed or probable Campylobacter infection linked to puppies, by state of residence, as of Sept. 11, 2017 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

What is Campylobacter?

Campylobacter is a bacterial infection that is mostly transmitted in raw or undercooked meat, especially poultry. However, animals can be infected and pass the infection on to humans.

Typical symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, intestinal cramping, vomiting, and fever.

Symptoms usually start between two and five days after initial contact with the bacteria and normally last less than a week. Some people are infected but don’t display any symptoms.

An estimated 1.3 million people are affected by Campylobacter each year. The infection can be life-threatening in some very rare cases, such as with people who have weak immune systems. An average of 76 fatal cases each year were recorded between 1998 and 2008.

Preventing Campylobacter

Federal health officials said in a statement that “Regardless of where they are from, any puppy and dog may carry Campylobacter germs.”

The best way to prevent Campylobacter is to practice good hygiene. The CDC recommends washing hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after touching your dog.

The CDC advises: “Pick a puppy or dog that is bright, alert, and playful. Puppies and dogs should have shiny, soft fur that is free of poop.” The CDC recommends taking your puppy or dog to a vet soon after adoption for a health check-up.

The infection can spread through contact with dog feces and usually does not spread from one person to another.

Here are some tips from the CDC’s advice for pet owners that were posted after the outbreak:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with running water and soap for at least 20 seconds every time you touch dogs, their food, or clean up after them. Adults should supervise hand-washing for young children.
    • If soap and water are not readily available, use hand sanitizer until you are able to wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Pick up and dispose of dog poop, especially in areas where children might play. Use disposable gloves and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
  • Clean up any pee (urine), poop (stool), or vomit in the house immediately, and disinfect the area. Use disposable gloves to handle anything that has touched pee, poop, or vomit, and wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
  • Take your dog to the veterinarian regularly to keep it healthy and to help prevent the spread of disease.
  • Don’t let pets lick around your mouth and face.
  • Don’t let pets lick your open wound or areas with broken skin.
Jane Werrell
Jane Werrell is a reporter for NTD based in the UK.