PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says dozens of people have been sickened by puppies sold at Petland pet stores.
The outbreak is being reported in several states, including Pennsylvania, where all five Petland locations are in the Pittsburgh area.
The CDC says there have been 39 cases. Two in Pennsylvania. The majority of illnesses were in Ohio, where 18 cases were reported.
Campylobacter infections can be spread by contact with dog feces.
“If you don’t wash your hands afterwards, innocently touching your mouth or touching something that comes in contact with your mouth, you’re able to get it,” said Dr. Brian Lamb, from West Penn Medical Associates.
He says Campylobacter infections are not uncommon and that many people have no symptoms at all.
However, if you do develop symptoms, he says: “Diarrhea is going to be the number one symptom, as well as abdominal pain and cramping. Usually about two to five days after you’ve been exposed to it.”
Dr. Kristen Mertz, medical epidemiologist for the Allegheny County Health Department, said in a written statement: “This is not something new in our region. We see frequent cases of Campylobacter associated with puppies.”
Dr. Lamb says prevention is key.
“It comes down to hand washing,” he said. “Especially for yourself and then for your children. Just because they’re smaller, and they have an immune system that may not be as advanced as an adult.”
As for Petland, Elizabeth Kunzelman, the director of Public Affairs, emailed a response to KDKA’s questions:
“CDC has not provided us any details as to which stores were linked. There are no additional steps required at this point because the CDC have not identified any failures of Petland’s operating system that would lead to any Campylobacter infection.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Health will not reveal the exact locations where cases are associated, according to a spokesperson.
That’s because some of the people who got sick are employees, and as a result, they believe revealing the locations may compromise medical privacy.
Nine people have been hospitalized. The CDC says the first illness in the outbreak was reported on Sept. 15, 2016. The most recent report was on Sept. 1 of this year.
More information on the outbreak, including advice for pet owners and pet store workers, can be found here: CDC.gov/campylobacter