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CDC warns that pet store puppies are making people sick

Published Dec 18th, 2019 11:03AM EST
cdc puppy bacteria
Image: Cultura/REX/Shutterstock

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Taking a new puppy home from the pet store can be an incredibly exciting experience. You’re adopting a living, breathing bundle of cuddles, and by the time you’re ready to bring your new four-legged friend home, you’ve already likely done a whole lot of preparation.

One thing you might not be prepared for, however, is your home’s newest resident making you violently ill. That’s exactly what the CDC is warning, as reports of new puppy owners coming down with severe bacterial infections are piling up across the United States. The bacteria in question, Campylobacter jejuni, has already infected 30 people across 13 states.

The CDC began tracking this relatively small-scale outbreak earlier this year, and eventually confirmed that the strain of bacteria was identical among the dozens of infected individuals. Many of the infections have been traced to the national pet store chain Petland, suggesting a pretty clear link between puppies from the stores and the eventual infections. Here’s how the CDC breaks things down:

Among 24 people interviewed,

  • 21 (88%) of the 24 people reported contact with a puppy.
  • 15 (71%) of these 21 people reported contact with a puppy from a pet store.
  • 12 (80%) of these 15 people were linked to Petland, a national pet store chain.
  • 5 (42%) of these 12 people were Petland employees.

Unfortunately, this specific strain of bacteria is apparently resistant to the most common “first-line” antibiotic treatments. This complicates the treatment of individuals who have become infected, but thus far just four individuals have had to be hospitalized, and there have been no deaths related to the outbreak.

As for how to protect yourself from such an infection, especially if you’re welcoming a new puppy into your home this holiday season, the CDC recommends regularly washing your hands and ensuring any young children are also in the habit of washing up after petting a new puppy. Additionally, avoiding those oh-so-tempting “puppy kisses” is a big deal, as they can easily spread harmful bacteria.

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