A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Officials warn outbreak of drug-resistant bacteria likely coming from petting pet stores puppies


By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Getting a puppy for Christmas? Keep clean and take it to a vet. At least 30 people in 13 states have been sickened by a drug-resistant bacteria that federal health officials say was likely picked up from puppies in pet stores, three of them in Kentucky.

The infection is from a multi-drug-resistant strain of the bacterium Campylobacter jejuni. The outbreak has caused four hospitalizations, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a news release.

(Getty Images photo from WJW-TV, Fox 8 Cleveland, Via Kentucky Health News)

The CDC noted that the hospitalized ranged in age from 8 months to 70 years old.

Among 24 people with infections who were interviewed, 21 said they had recently touched a puppy and 15 of those said they did so in a pet store. All of the cases were reported between January and November.

“Campylobacter bacteria can spread to people through contact with poop of infected animals and contaminated food or water,” says the release.

Infection from the Campylobacter bacteria is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the United States, infecting more than 1.5 million people every year, says the CDC. Most cases are not part of a recognized outbreak.

The release notes that a single, common supplier of puppies has not been identified. However, 12 of those who had contact with a puppy did so at a Petland store, and five of the 12 were Petland employees. Petland has two locations in Kentucky, in Florence and Ashland.

The CDC adds that the strain of Campylobacter in this outbreak appears to be related to a strain that caused a similar outbreak of puppy-related human illness in 2016.

In a statement, Petland said that just like a 2016 outbreak, this specific Campylobacter strain has not originated at any specific Petland store. The company said it implemented all recommended protocols from federal and state officials to prevent human and dog illness after that outbreak.

Campylobacter jejuni oubreak as of Dec. 11. (Click for larger image)

“For perspective, more than 12 million guests visit our stores annually, and during this specific time period, Petland estimates more than 2.4 million customer socializations of Petland puppies,” says the statement.

Illnesses have been reported in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wyoming.

Symptoms of Campylobacter infection include diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps that begin two to five days after being exposed to the bacteria. The illness usually lasts about a week and most people recover without antibiotics. Antibiotics are needed for patients who are very ill or those with severely weakened immune systems.

The CDC encourages people to make sure they take a new puppy or dog to a veterinarian for a checkup within a few days after getting it because puppies and dogs can carry the Campylobacter germs even while appearing healthy and clean.

The agency also advises people to always wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching a puppy or dog, after handling their food and after cleaning up after them. Also, don’t let dogs lick around your mouth and face, open wounds, or areas with broken skin.

The release says the CDC the investigation is ongoing and the agency will provide updates when more information is available.


Related Posts

Leave a Comment