Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after playing with your dog. Puppies have been linked to a multidrug-resistant infection outbreak that has sickened 30 people in more than a dozen states, including Illinois, according to health officials.
Puppies and dogs can carry the bacteria and make people sick even when the animals appear healthy and clean, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bacteria, campylobacter jejuni, was found to be resistant to commonly recommended, first-line antibiotics.
Health officials believe puppies purchased from pet stores are the likely source of this outbreak based on epidemiologic and laboratory evidence. Of the 30 people sickened, four have been hospitalized; no deaths have been reported. Based on interviews with 24 of those sickened, the CDC found that 15 people reported touching a puppy from a pet store – with 12 saying they touched a puppy from a Petland store.
Most people who develop an infection have diarrhea (which is often bloody), fever and stomach cramps within two to five days of being exposed to the bacteria. Illnesses typically last about a week and most people recover without antibiotics.
Health officials recommend thoroughly washing your hands with soap and water after touching a dog, handling their food and cleaning up after them. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer until you are able to wash your hands thorougly.
As endearing as puppy kisses are, don’t let dogs lick around your mouth and face, open wounds or areas with broken skin, say health officials. If a dog urinates, deficates or vomits in the house, clean up the area immediately, disinfect the area using a water and bleach solution, and, of course, wash your hands. (See the CDC’s cleaning and sanitizing with bleach guide.)
Anyone who recently purchased a puppy should take it to a veterinarian for a health check-up, according to the CDC. If you’re looking to buy a pup, look for signs of illness (lethargy, diarrhea, abnormal breathing and lack of appetite) and pick a dog that is bright, alert and playful, say health officials. If your dog becomes sick soon after purchase, take them to the vet and inform the store, breeder or rescue organization from which they came about their illness.
Employees who work with dogs should ask management for training on handwashing, clean-up procedures and other illness-prevention measures, according the CDC. Staff should also eat and store their food in areas away from areas where animals are kept and stored. If there isn’t a separate refrigerator for pet food, the CDC advises storing pet food on lower shelves, below human food.
For more information and updates on this outbreak, visit the CDC’s website.