CDC Warns of Drug-resistant Infection From Pet Store Puppies
Sun, April 11, 2021

CDC Warns of Drug-resistant Infection From Pet Store Puppies

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last month that it was investigating an outbreak of Campylobacter that sickened 30 people in 13 states from January through November / Photo by: Daniel Mayer via Wikimedia Commons

 

Contact with pet store puppies may lead to infections of multi-drug resistant bacteria that cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, health officials warned.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced last month that it was investigating an outbreak of Campylobacter that sickened 30 people in 13 states from January through November.

The health agency revealed that puppies bought from pet stores may be the likely source of the outbreak. They also released a safety guideline for pet owners and pet store workers to prevent the spread of the infection.

Campylobacter Infections

Campylobacter infection leads to about 1.5 million illnesses in the US annually from eating raw or undercooked poultry. Handling or being in contact with dog or cat feces may also lead to infection.

While most people who acquire the infection recover without specific treatment, some may need to take antibiotics if they are very ill or at high risk for severe disease. However, the strain identified in the outbreak is resistant to common antibiotic treatments.

Out of the 26 infected people with available information, CDC reported four have been hospitalized since January 6, 2019. Minnesota had the largest number of cases with six infections recorded, Ohio with five, and Nevada with four cases.

Other affected states included Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming.

The age of the infected ranged from eight months to 70 years (median age of 34)—the majority of whom are female (52%).

There might be more cases than what is shown in the current numbers, the CDC said, but reports may take time due to the duration it takes when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported.

Campylobacter infection leads to about 1.5 million illnesses in the US annually from eating raw or undercooked poultry. Handling or being in contact with dog or cat feces may also lead to infection / Photo by: Alan Levine via Flickr

 

Pet Store Puppies and Outbreaks

The CDC interviewed 24 of the infected people, asking them about their dog, puppy, and other exposures they had the week before they became ill.

In their interview, the CDC reported 21 people (88%) saying they came in contact with a puppy a week before their illness started, and 15 of them (71%) said the contact was with a puppy from a pet store, CBS News reported.

"When asked about the specific pet store, 12 (80%) of those 15 people reported either having contact with a puppy or working at a Petland store," the health agency said in a statement.

Further investigation found that eight more people who fell ill had contact with a puppy at Petland, whose diagnostic test showed they were infected with Campylobacter.

However, the CDC did not count them in the outbreak case because there were no bacterial samples available for whole-genome sequencing (WGS). WGS is a standardized laboratory and data analysis method used to identify disorders and track disease outbreaks.

Laboratory evidence showed that the bacteria from this outbreak were similar to an infestation that affected more than 100 people from 2016 to 2018. That outbreak was also linked to pet store puppies.

Customer Socialization

While many reported having contact with a puppy at a Petland store, the chain doesn't have branches in the mentioned states where more than a third of the cases were reported. Ahead of the CDC report, the pet store chain released a statement in which it was mentioned that an estimated 2.4 million "customer socialization" of Petland puppies occurred during last year's outbreak period, CBS News said.

"Petland takes the health and welfare of our employees, our customers, and our pets very seriously," the chain emphasized. "Since an earlier outbreak in 2016, in which no specific source of infection was identified, Petland has implemented all recommended protocols from federal and state animal and public health officials to prevent human and puppy illness."

Petland also advised people to "take universal sanitary precautions" to prevent acquiring infections that pets may transmit. The pet store chain assured that it will take added measures to ensure that the puppies they sell are healthy "and provides health warranties offered by our stores that typically provide for veterinary treatment for various bacterial, viral, and congenital issues if they arise."

Preventing Infections

CDC advised people who own or come in contact with dogs to take steps to stay healthy around pets. Even if it seems that pets are healthy and are not sick, they may still be carrying Campylobacter germs with them.

The health agency recommended doing the following:

• Thorough handwashing after touching a dog or puppy, handling their food, and after cleaning up after them.
• Take a new puppy or dog to a veterinarian for a health check-up after getting them.
• Eat and store food properly.
• Immediately and properly clean up their mess (includes disinfecting the area using a water and bleach solution).

"It’s usually a self-limited illness," Nikhil Bhayani, an infectious disease physician with Texas Health Resources, told Healthline, an American website and provider of health information headquartered in San Francisco, California.

"It can get better in about a day, but people who have it prolonged, or severe disease with fever and bloody stools, you’d treat with antibiotics and it could take a couple of days."

So the next time you see a very cute dog in a pet store, just resist the urge to pet them. It won’t hurt their feelings but it can probably save you from getting sick.

CDC advised people who own or come in contact with dogs to take steps to stay healthy around pets / Photo by: 422737 via Pixabay