With the victim count having jumped 40 percent in the past three weeks, the CDC has nothing but bad news to report today on a multi-state Campylobacter outbreak traced to Petland puppies — the outbreak strains are antibiotic resistant.

Since its initial outbreak announcement on Sept. 11, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has received lab confirmation of 16 more victims across five new states. That brings the outbreak totals to 55 people in a dozen states, with a fourth of them requiring hospitalization. No deaths have been reported.

“Clinical samples from people and puppies sickened in this outbreak appear to be resistant to commonly recommended, first-line antibiotics. This means infections with the outbreak strain may not respond well to oral antibiotics usually prescribed to treat Campylobacter infections,” according to the outbreak update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nine out of 10 of the infected people, 49 of the 55 victims, either had contact with puppies from a Petland store or are Petland employees.

Anyone who has had contact with Petland puppies in the chain’s stores, homes or elsewhere is urged to seek medical attention if they have developed symptoms of Campylobacter infection. Symptoms can include diarrhea that is often bloody, fever, stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting.

State health officials and the CDC report outbreak victims in 12 states: Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Other details from the CDC’s update today include:

  • The most recent illness began on Sept. 12.
  • Ill people range in age from less than 1 year to 86 years, with a median age of 23 years with 13 having been hospitalized.
  • Whole genome sequencing showed samples of Campylobacter isolated from stool of puppies sold through Petland had the same DNA fingerprints as samples isolated from ill people in multiple states.

Looking forward
The CDC anticipates additional victims. There is a gap of at least two weeks between the time a person becomes ill and  when they are added to the outbreak list because of lab tests and reporting procedures.

Also, Petland customers likely still have puppies in their homes that are carrying the bacteria or are infected.

“Campylobacter can spread through contact with dog poop. It usually does not spread from one person to another,” the CDC reports. “However, activities such as changing an infected person’s diapers or sexual contact with an infected person can lead to infection.”

At least one of the confirmed victims in the ongoing outbreak did not have contact with any puppies, but did have sexual contact with a person with a confirmed illness linked to Petland.

CDC recommends that people follow these steps for protecting themselves and others while enjoying their dogs and puppies:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly after touching dogs, their poop, or their food. Take extra care that children playing with puppies also wash their hands carefully.
  • 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.

Petland’s response
The CDC update says Petland officials are cooperating with the outbreak investigators. The pet store chain has not expressed the same sentiment in regard to the CDC.

As of 6 p.m. EDT today, Petland had not posted any new outbreak information on its company website. In its most recent statement, posted Sept. 13, the chain store’s officials said they would be doing more to help, but the CDC won’t cooperate with them.

“Petland has requested but has not been given any information from the CDC or any other health department offices related to the dates, stores, or cities where the 39 infection cases allegedly originated. We have also not been provided any information or location of any employees affected,” according to Petland’s Sept. 13 statement.

“Petland has resources ready to deploy once we are given case specific information from the CDC. The only information we have is the limited information shared with us from the CDC. Prior to the public notification from the CDC, Petland had not been contacted by any customers or employees regarding a confirmed or diagnosed human campylobacter infection after visiting a Petland store or from a Petland puppy.”

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