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Pet store puppies linked to disease outbreak

A bulldog licks a man's forehead.

Jan. 12, 2020—The cutest of culprits—puppies—may be to blame for a multistate outbreak of an infection that's resistant to first-line antibiotics.

This infection typically causes diarrhea (often bloody), fever and stomach cramps. Nausea and vomiting may also occur. In people with a weakened immune system, it can be life threatening.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes the infection is being spread by puppies carrying a strain of Campylobacter bacteria. In the current outbreak, most people who got sick had touched puppies in pet stores.

Steps to stay healthy

The good news: Some fairly simple precautions can help keep you—and your family—safe from Campylobacter bacteria and other germs dogs might carry. These safeguards should start even before you bring a furry friend into your home.

If you're adding a dog to your household, pick one that is bright, alert and playful, the CDC advises. Dogs might be ill and could spread dangerous germs if they:

  • Seem tired.
  • Don't eat.
  • Have diarrhea.
  • Struggle to breathe.

Still, even a dog that appears healthy can spread germs to people and other animals. So after getting a new puppy or dog, be sure to take your pet to the vet for a checkup within a few days of bringing it home.

And whenever a dog is a part of your family, practice these healthy habits:

  • Wash your hands. Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water after touching your dog, handling its food, or cleaning up its urine, feces or vomit. Supervise young children so that they scrub their hands well. If soap and water aren't handy, use hand sanitizer. Then follow with soap and water as soon as possible.
  • Disinfect promptly. Immediately clean up any of your dog's urine, feces or vomit inside your home with a water and bleach solution.
  • Limit dog kisses. Don't let your dog lick around your mouth, face or any broken skin. Kids shouldn't hold dogs close to their face or kiss them.
  • Keep your dog healthy. Take your dog to the vet regularly and any time it's sick.

More ways to avoid Campylobacter

Campylobacter bacteria are also one of the most common causes of foodborne illnesses in the U.S. Follow these tips to reduce your risk of getting sick from contaminated poultry, produce, or other food and drinks.

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