Drug-resistant Campylobacter outbreak linked to puppies from pet stores

December 19, 2019

The CDC advises puppy owners to take precautions, including taking new pets to a veterinarian.

viktoriagavril /stock.adobe.comThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and public health officials in several states are investigating a multistate outbreak of multidrug-resistant human Campylobacter jejuni infections linked to contact with puppies from pet stores, according to a report from the agency.

Public health investigators are using the PulseNet system-a national network of public health laboratories-to identify illnesses that may be part of this outbreak. As of December 17, a total of 30 people infected with Campylobacter had been reported from 13 states: Minnesota and Ohio had five to six reports; Nevada, Kentucky and Utah had two to four; and Wyoming, Illinois, Tennessee, Connecticut, Maryland, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida had one each. The CDC maintains an updated map of reported cases online.

Illness report dates range from Jan. 6 through Nov. 10, 2019, the CDC states. Those affected range in age from 8 months to 70 years, with a median age of 34; 52% are female. Of 26 people with information available, four hospitalizations have been reported. No deaths have been reported. More illness reports may still come in due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported, the CDC states.

The isolates have so far shown resistance to tetracycline, ciprofloxacin, nalidixic acid, azithromycin, erythromycin, clindamycin, telithromycin and gentamicin in testing conducted by the CDC's National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) laboratory.

Evidence indicates that puppies purchased from pet stores are the likely source of this outbreak. Many of the people affected had contact with puppies or were employees at pet stores, including Petland. Of 24 ill people interviewed, 21 (88%) reported contact with a puppy in the week before illness started, and 15 (71%) of those reported contact with a puppy from a pet store. 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.

A single common supplier of puppies has not been identified, so the CDC is advising all pet owners to do the following:

  • Wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching their puppy or dog, handling their food, and cleaning up after them.

  • Pick up and dispose of dog poop, especially in areas where children might play.

  • Contact your veterinarian if you notice any signs of illness in your puppy or dog.

  • Within a few days after getting a new puppy or dog, take it to a veterinarian for a health checkup.

The CDC is continuing to investigate and says it will provide updates as more information becomes available.