Kissing your puppy could send you to the hospital; CDC says virus is spreading

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that 16 more Americans have been diagnosed with Campylobacter, an infection commonly found in puppies. The bacteria strain can be transmitted through close contact such as cuddling and kissing. According to the CDC, the latest report further marks a sweeping outbreak across the country, which has now affected 55 people in 12 states. Thirteen of these cases have required hospitalization due to severe diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, fever and cramping, the CDC adds.

“Outbreaks of Campylobacter have most often been associated with unpasteurized dairy products, contaminated water, poultry, and produce. Most people who become ill with campylobacteriosis get diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever within two to five days after exposure to the organism. The diarrhea may be bloody and can be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The illness typically lasts about one week. Some infected persons do not have any symptoms. In persons with compromised immune systems, Campylobacter occasionally spreads to the bloodstream and causes a serious life-threatening infection,” the CDC stated in a Miami Herald report.

The CDC reports that the new cases have been observed in Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Utah, and Wyoming. The outbreak has been previously identified in seven other states including Florida, Kansas, Missouri, and Ohio as well as Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Ohio and Florida have shown the highest number of infections at 22 cases and 13 cases, respectively. No deaths have been reported so far. The CDC has noted that the outbreak started on September 11.

According to the CDC, 35 people have reported purchasing a puppy from a Petland store prior to getting sick. The were also found to have either visited a Petland chain or lived in a home with a Petland puppy. The federal agency has also reported that 14 infected people are Petland employees. The federal agency has admitted to difficulties in containing the outbreak and has urged the general public to report any cases of infection. Likewise, the CDC has issued safety guidelines for dog owners.

“Talk to your doctor if you think you have a Campylobacter infection and let them know if you recently purchased a puppy at a pet store, visited a pet store, or visited or live in a home with a puppy sold through a pet store before illness began. If your doctor believes you need to be treated with antibiotics, they should do specialized testing to determine which antibiotic is the best choice for you,” the federal agency has discussed in a separate report.

Fast facts about Campylobacter infection

Campylobacter infection is caused by a spiral-shaped bacteria of the same name. According to a CDC fact sheet, the bacteria is one of the most common causes of diarrhea-related ailments across the U.S. The fact sheet has cited data from the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, which show that the annual diagnosis rate is about 14 cases per 100,000 persons. The federal agency has also noted that the infection affects more than 1.3 million people every year.

The fact sheet has also revealed that the disease occurs much more frequently in summer than in winter, and is more likely to affect men compared with women. The CDC has noted that while infection-related deaths rarely occur, about 76 people die each year due to Campylobacteriosis. Symptoms of Campylobacter infection include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever

According to the fact sheet, the fever sets in around two to five days after being exposed to the bacteria. Likewise, diarrhea may appear bloody, while nausea and vomiting may follow suit. However, some people may not show symptoms of infection. Campylobacter infection typically persists for about a week, according to the fact sheet.

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