How Florida health officials linked an 18-state Campylobacter outbreak to pet store puppies

An investigation by the Florida Department of Health's epidemiological team identified pet store puppies as the source of an outbreak of Campylobacter infections, which sickened 100 people across 18 states since January 2016, according to News 6 Colorado.

The investigation started last summer when five Orange County, Fla., residents became ill with symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever, cramps and diarrhea after bacterial exposure to Campylobacter Jejuni. The team found the bacterial strain responsible for the illnesses was commonly found in sick puppies and resistant to most types of antibiotics.

Health officials identified puppies at two Orlando-based Petland stores as the source of the infections. They notified federal health agencies of their findings after DNA testing revealed some puppies had the same strain of bacteria that infected individuals in other states.

In total, 118 people contracted a Campylobacter infection  after coming into contact with an infected puppy between January 5, 2016, to Feb. 4, 2018. Of those individuals, 29 were pet store workers and 26 required hospitalization. No deaths occurred. While six pet store chains were involved in the outbreak, most cases involved Petland puppies.  

Ohio and Florida reported the most infections linked to the puppies. Other states affected by the outbreak included: Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Among 149 puppies investigated as part of the outbreak, 142 received one or more courses of antibiotics, which may have caused the bacteria's resistance, the CDC discovered.  

Campylobacter infections are often associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry, but people can also contract the infection through contact with dog or cat feces, according to the CDC. The Florida Department of Health recommends individuals wash or sanitize their hands before and after any exposure to animals to limit the chances of contracting a bacterial infection.

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