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Puppies and Campy?

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By: Pooja Sharma

A multi-state outbreak, which has sickened 67 people across US has been linked to puppies at a store called Petland, a national pet store chain. Around 93% of the infections are linked to puppies at Petland. The illnesses took place between September 2016 – October 2017. There have been a total of 17 hospitalizations till now. No deaths have been reported.

Lab results have confirmed that puppies that have been sold through Ohio-based Petland store are the source of the outbreak. Of the 67 people, 62 have an epidemiological link with the puppies. 18 of these patients were Petland employees. And around 44 have either purchased a puppy from Petland, visited a Petland store or has been near a home that sells Petland puppies.

Here are the number of illnesses in each state:

  • Ohio (24)
  • Florida (14)
  • Kansas (6)
  • Missouri (5)
  • Illinois (4)
  • Pennsylvania (2)
  • Utah (2)
  • Tennessee (2)
  • Wisconsin (2)
  • Georgia (1)
  • Maryland (1)
  • New Hampshire (1)
  • New York (1)
  • Oklahoma (1)
  • Wyoming (1)

What is Campylobacter?

Campylobacter is one of the main causes of food poisoning in the United States. There are about 1.3 million cases of campylobacter each year and it is one of the most common causes of diarrheal illness in the United States. Most cases are not part of the outbreaks like this one but are individual. It is more common in summers than the winters.

Symptoms: Campylobacter’s symptoms are common to all the other foodborne illness. These include diarrhea (sometimes bloody), fever and abdominal cramps. Symptoms can start after 2-5 days a person comes in contact with the bacteria. It can last for about a week. People who have weakened immune system, children, elderly and pregnant women can have more complications during treatment.

Diagnosis and Treatment: Campylobacter is tested by the specimen of the feces of the individual. Fecal culture is the most common diagnostic procedure for campylobacter illness. After 48 hours, the doctors will look for leukocytes in the culture. These leukocytes many even be found in animals. This is how the puppies and other animals are examined for campylobacteriosis when they are sick.

Most people can easily recover without any treatment. All they need is some extra fluids and rest. Antibiotics may be required in some cases. If your dog is recovering from the treatment, you should make sure that he is hydrated and is not showing any worsening signs. Also, make sure that all his follow up treatments are done.

Campylobacter does not spread from person to person but it can be transferred to an individual when they come in contact with the infected person while changing diapers or during intercourse.

How do puppies transfer it?

Campylobacteriosis is a bacterial infection that is quite prevalent in puppies that are younger than 6 months. Campylobacter can sicken both humans and animals alike. However, animals sometimes do not show symptoms of any infection even if the Campylobacter bacteria is living inside of them. The bacteria which causes the disease can be found in the gut of healthy animals. This is how it reaches the edible body parts of the body of some animals.

Around 49% of the total dogs carry Campylobacteriosis and they shed it into their feces for other animals and humans to contract. This is why people who do not follow good hygiene might have good chances of contracting this infection than those who do. Ingestion of water or food that has come in contact with the infected feces can also result in the illness.

Why is the growing antibiotic resistance a cause of concern during this outbreak?

Campylobacter bacteria that is isolated from clinical samples that are collected from the people sickened at this outbreak were found to be resistant to first line of antibiotics. This means that the treatments would be much more difficult and complex to do in this case.

Antibiotic resistance is categorized by the ability of the bacteria to modify themselves and survive in the presence of an antibiotic drug. Antibiotic resistance happens when the antibiotics that we take in our normal life also kills the good bacteria along with the bad ones. This causes the few bad ones that are left to overpower the good bacteria or worse even transfer some of their drug resistance properties.

An increase in antibiotic resistance can result in an increase in number of hospitalisations, development of bloodstream infection and treatment failure in patients. It can increase the complications of the infections and also increase mortality. According to WHO, there are very few antibiotics that are discovered and developed to replace the ones that have proved out to be ineffective. Antibiotic resistance has really become a pressing issue for this generation of individuals.

How to protect yourself?

Petland has said in a statement, “regardless of where they are from, any puppies and dogs may carry Campylobacter germs”. CDC has advised Petland to reinforce proper hand sanitization before and after anyone come in contact with puppies.

If you are working at Petland or as a matter of fact, any other pet store, it is crucial that you follow a proper hygiene. Wash your hands thoroughly every time you come in contact with a puppy. Even if you cannot do that immediately, make sure that you do not eat with the same hands or touch any food before your hands are all washed.

Next, you should contact a veterinarian, from time to time, to examine all the puppies, cats, dogs etc. for any infections that they may carry. With appropriate treatment the dogs can recover from the infection.

One woman named Brenda Douglas had to return her puppy back to the store when he just won’t stop vomiting. She said that they tried everything that could they do but with kids in the house, it is scary to keep a dog that is infected. If you have bought a puppy from Petland, make sure that he is tested for the Campylobacter.

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