Puppies, beacons of cuteness and adorability, could also be sickening people across the country, according to a recent report.
On Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a notice to dog lovers as well as the rest of the general public about 30 cases of people becoming ill in 13 U.S. states. The reported sicknesses, which have thus far resulted in four hospitalizations and zero deaths, are believed to be linked to those who had recently come in contact with puppies.
Some of the states impacted include Minnesota, Ohio, Nevada, Utah and Kentucky, according to the report.
Comparing the current situation to a similar multi-state outbreak between 2016 and 2018, the CDC believes the culprit behind the infections is Campylobacter bacteria, which can be carried by dogs that otherwise seem healthy and clean.
To prevent catching the illness, the CDC suggests thoroughly washing one’s hands after touching a dog, and also after cleaning up after the animals. It is also recommended to not let pups lick around a person’s face or mouth, as well as any open wounds or broken skin.
Noticeable indicators of a puppy carrying the illness include an apparent sluggishness, lack of appetite and abnormal breathing, says the CDC. Symptoms among humans include bloody diarrhea, fever and stomach cramps, lasting for about one week and often treatable with antibiotics in severe instances.
The CDC also reminds pet owners to take their dogs for regular veterinary visits to ensure their canines are healthy, preventing any diseases from spreading.
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The potential connection between these illnesses and puppies is specifically tied to dogs found in pet stores, as a number of the people affected had said they’d recently interacted with pups at a store. Of the pet stores visited by the ill respondents, Petland is named by the CDC in the report, with some of the national chain’s employees and customers becoming sick.
In a statement to PEOPLE, a Petland spokesperson outlined the many sanitary and safety precautions it follows in its locations, clarifying that the specific Campylobacter strain did not originate at any Petland store at this point in the ongoing investigation.
“Petland takes the health and welfare of our employees, our customers and our pets very seriously,” a spokesperson for Petland said in a statement. “… 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.”
Petland, which welcomes more than 12 million guests to its stores each year, has always stressed the importance of proper hand-sanitizing when handling pets, according to the spokesperson.
“We encourage everyone to take universal sanitary precautions to prevent this or any other disease pets may transmit to their owners,” the statement continues. “Petland takes additional measures to ensure that the puppies it sells are healthy, and provides health warranties offered by our stores that typically provide for veterinary treatment for various bacterial, viral and congenital issues, if they arise.”