Although officials with Petland Inc. say any dog can be infected with Campylobacter, 93 percent of victims in an ongoing, 15-state outbreak had contact with Petland puppies before becoming ill.

In an outbreak update Monday, federal officials reported a dozen more people have been confirmed in the outbreak since Oct. 3, bringing the total to 67. No deaths have been reported, but almost a third of the victims, 27 percent, have required hospitalization, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Whole genome sequencing, which provides so-called DNA fingerprints of pathogens, has identified the outbreak strain of Campylobacter in victims and puppies. The laboratory tests show bacteria isolated from human and canine samples is resistant to a variety of first-line antibiotics, including azithromycin, ciprofloxacin, clindamycin, erythromycin, nalidixic acid, telithromycin, tetracycline, gentamicin and florfenicol.

“Antibiotic resistance may be associated with increased risk of hospitalization, development of a bloodstream infection, or treatment failure in patients,” according to the CDC update, which urged physicians to be on the lookout for Campylobacter symptoms and determine treatment in the context of this antibiotic-resistant outbreak.

The most recent victim’s symptoms began Oct. 13, according to CDC. The first case in the 13-month outbreak was identified in a person who became ill in September 2016. Additional victims may not yet be included in the total case count because of the weeks-long lag time between the onset of symptoms and when lab results are reported to public health officials.

Victim count

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As of Monday, the confirmed victims are:

  • 18 Petland employees;
  • 44 people who either recently purchased a puppy from Petland, visited a Petland store, or live in/visited a home with a puppy sold by Petland;
  • 4 people who reported contact with puppies from other sources; and
  • 1 person who had a laboratory-confirmed infection and did not report any puppy exposure.

Despite the fact that vast majority of confirmed victims have epidemiological links to Petland puppies, the pet store chain’s official response has been to point to other possible sources of the Campylobacter. As of Monday night, the company had not updated outbreak information on it’s website since posting a news release Oct. 3.

Petland’s position
“Today the CDC posted an update announcing they have expanded their investigation and confirmed they have found campylobacter in puppies sources other than Petland,” the company said in the Oct. 3 news release. “The CDC’s expanded investigation resulted in cases found in humans in Utah, Wyoming, New Hampshire and Maryland. These are states where Petland has no store locations.

“Petland has been able to provide traceback for any puppy purchased as requested by the CDC, thus making sense for CDC and Petland to work together to conduct testing. However, more than 98 percent of people obtain their puppies from other sources, including shelters, rescues, friends, online and through local advertising. Petland is therefore pleased that the CDC is expanding its investigation.”

The 98 percent statistic cited by Petland’s corporate management is for all people who buy puppies in the United States and not specific to the outbreak victims.

Public health investigators in Ohio identified the outbreak earlier this year and alerted the CDC and the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. On Sept. 11 the CDC posted its initial outbreak investigation report. At that point, the outbreak included 39 victims in seven states.

Advice to consumers
The CDC recommends that adults always supervise very young children when they are around puppies or any other animals. Other advice includes:

  • Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching puppies or picking up their poop;
  • Make sure children wash properly after touching puppies or any other animals; and
  • Work with your veterinarian to keep your animals healthy and prevent diseases.

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