By Peter Szekely
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Beware of dog, especially the cute puppies in pet store windows, U.S. health officials warn.
A bacteria resistant to common antibiotics has sickened 30 people this year, sending four of them to hospitals, and puppies are the likely culprit, according to an advisory issued late Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The strain, known as Campylobacter jejuni, is closely related to a 2016 outbreak that health officials said was most likely caused by contact with puppies sold at Petland stores, a nationwide chain of franchised pet stores.
That outbreak sickened 113 people in 17 states between January 2016 and January 2018, with 23 of them requiring hospitalization, the CDC said.
In the current outbreak, the CDC said it interviewed 24 of the people afflicted with the disease, 21 of whom reported contact with a puppy, including 15 who had contact with puppies from a pet store.
Twelve of the people infected were linked to Petland, including five employees of the store chain, the CDC said.
Chillicothe, Ohio-based Petland said in a statement that it has implemented a host of preventative steps recommended by public health officials since the 2016 outbreak.
In both outbreaks, the company said, the bacteria strain did not originate at any specific Petland store.
“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,” it said of the current outbreak.
Campylobacter infections generally cause diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps two to five days after exposure, the CDC said. It usually lasts about a week and most people recover without antibiotic treatment, it said.
The CDC said the disease has been detected in 13 states, including Utah, Wyoming, Minnesota and Maryland, where Petland said it has no stores.
Owners were advised to always wash their hands after touching their dogs or cleaning up after them, have their pets checked regularly by veterinarians and “don’t let dogs lick around your mouth and face.”
(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Andrea Ricci)