• Federal health officials say an outbreak of Campylobacter jejuni has infected 30 people in 13 states.
  • The bacteria can cause symptoms that include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps for days after exposure.
  • Experts think the disease is connected to puppies from pet stores.

That adorable puppy in the window may be the perfect Christmas gift, but a recent outbreak of antibiotic-resistant infections should make you think twice.

According to federal health officials, pet store pooches may be making people seriously ill. They say about 30 people so far have contracted a multidrug-resistant bacteria called Campylobacter jejuni.

These infections have been linked to contact with puppies from pet stores that include Petland.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those affected are spread out over 13 states. While four hospitalizations have been reported, there have been no deaths.

The bacteria isolated from clinical samples taken from ill people in this outbreak are resistant to commonly used, first-line antibiotics.

“The symptoms are gastroenteritis, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which can sometimes be bloody,” Nikhil Bhayani, MD, an infectious disease physician with Texas Health Resources, told Healthline.

Those sickened range in age from 8 months to 70 years old. Cases are reported in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming.

The illnesses began happening Jan. 6 of this year. Cases have continued to appear until Nov. 10.

The CDC says laboratory evidence indicates that bacteria from people affected in this outbreak are closely related to bacteria from people infected in a similar outbreak of multidrug-resistant Campylobacter infections linked to pet store puppies from 2016 to 2018. That outbreak affected more than 100 people.

Of 24 individuals who have spoken with authorities, 21 had interacted with a puppy, and 15 of those incidents involved a pet store. Twelve of the 15 pet store contacts were linked to Petland and include five staff. Officials haven’t identified any common puppy supplier linked to the outbreak.

“Illnesses might not yet be reported due to the time it takes between when a person becomes ill and when the illness is reported,” the CDC said in a statement.

Genome sequencing by the CDC has also revealed the resistance makeup of the bacteria.

It found a predicted resistance to commonly prescribed antibiotics, which include gentamicin, telithromycin, clindamycin, erythromycin, azithromycin, nalidixic acid, ciprofloxacin, and tetracycline.

“When empiric treatment is required, avoid agents to which the outbreak strain is resistant. This includes the antibiotics listed above as well as penicillins, amoxicillin-clavulanic acid, cephalosporins, metronidazole, and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, to which Campylobacter jejuni are inherently resistant,” the CDC advises.

Bhayani emphasizes that Campylobacter infection isn’t typically treated with antibiotics, except in severe cases.

“They’d usually be treated by supportive care. The symptoms do often resolve on their own,” he said.

Petland noted that more one-third of the 2019 cases were in people residing in locations where the company doesn’t have a presence.

“The CDC did not have any direct recommendations today regarding steps to keep puppies from exposure to this bacteria and recommended that Petland seek assistance from animal health officials.

“Upon receipt of relevant information, Petland will endeavor to determine the sources of infection, and will, in the meantime, remind all employees of the importance of sanitation and hygienic practices to keep people and pets safe,” the company said.

“Usually the disease is foodborne — contamination of water, food, and especially in the gastrointestinal tract of animals,” Bhayani said.

“Puppies and dogs can carry Campylobacter germs that can make people sick, even while appearing healthy and clean. People who own or come in contact with puppies or dogs should take steps to stay healthy around their pet,” advised the CDC in statement.

Specific recommendations include the following:

  • Adults should supervise handwashing for young children.
  • When soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer until you’re able to wash your hands with soap and water.
  • Immediately wash hands after cleaning up urine, feces, or vomit from a puppy or dog inside the house, and then disinfect the area using a water and bleach solution.

“It’s usually a self-limited illness. It can get better in about a day, but people who have it prolonged, or severe disease with fever and bloody stools, you’d treat with antibiotics and it could take a couple of days,” Bhayani explained.

An outbreak of antibiotic-resistant infections has been identified in 13 U.S. states. It’s been linked to people who have had contact with pet store puppies.

Experts say the bacteria, called Campylobacter jejuni, can cause symptoms that include diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps for days after exposure. Those who contract it will typically recover without needing treatment.

To avoid infection, the CDC recommends frequent handwashing and prompt cleanup of an animal’s feces and urine when it occurs inside the home.