Federal health officials are investigating a multi-state outbreak of Campylobacter, which is believed to be linked to puppies sold at certain pet stores nationwide, which have sickened at least 30 individuals in more than a dozen states.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Campylobacter jejuni advisory notice on December 18, after determining certain pet store puppies may be carrying the infection, which could serious illness for owners or others who come into contact with the animals.
The first Campylobacter jejuni illness was reported on January 6, 2019. As of this week, a total of 30 individuals have been diagnosed with the infections, which have resulted in at least four hospitalizations.
An investigation by the CDC and state health departments revealed through traceback and epidemiologic evidence that contact with puppies, especially those sold at pet stores, is the likely source of the outbreak. Of the 24 sickened individuals interviewed, 21 reported coming in contact with a puppy, with 15 reporting specifically coming in contact with a puppy at a pet store.
Investigators report that 12 individuals came in contact with a puppy specifically at Petland, which is a national pet store chain. To date, illnesses have been reported in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming.
Campylobacter are a group of germs which normally inhabit the intestinal tract of warm-blooded animals such as poultry and cattle, and are frequently detected in foods derived from these animals. The bacteria are a common cause of food poisoning, and one of the most common causes of diarrhea nationwide.
Symptoms include cramping, vomiting, severe diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain and fever within two to five days after exposure, which typically last for seven to ten days.
Laboratory evidence has indicated the bacteria collected from sickened individuals is closely related genetically to previous Campylobacter outbreaks linked to pet store puppies.
In September 2017, the CDC launched a similar investigation into a multi-state Campylobacter outbreak after determining certain Petland puppies may be carrying the infection. Among the 39 individuals infected during the outbreak, 12 were employees of Petland stores, and the other 27 individuals had either recently purchased a puppy at a Petland store, or visited a home of someone who recently purchased a puppy through a Petland store before their illness began.
The CDC recommends individuals wash their hands thoroughly to prevent the spread of the contamination, which can be contracted from contact with feces of an infected animal. Those with pet dogs from a Petland store are encouraged to dispose of their pet’s feces carefully, especially in areas that children might play, and to contact their local veterinarian if owners recognize the animal showing signs of illness.