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Puppies Potentially Linked to a Bacterial Outbreak

During the holidays, a popular present for the kids is a puppy; they are adorable, playful, and they bring joy to children and families. But a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report suggests that buying a puppy for Christmas may pose a risk for young children due to Campylobacter jejuni, a bacteria that causes approximately 1.5 million illnesses in the U.S. every year.

This season, 30 people from 13 different states have been infected with Campylobacter jejuni, which is the same bacteria involved with the 2016-2018 outbreak that sickened 113 people and was linked to pet store puppies. Of the 24 people interviewed, 21 reported contact with a puppy and 71 percent reported contact with a puppy from a pet store, as stated by the CDC.

Children are Most Susceptible to a Bacterial Outbreak

Children may get sick by accidentally ingesting the bacteria in the stool or feces of an infected puppy since children are prone to putting their hands in their mouths. For instance, petting a puppy and then putting an unwashed hand in the mouth, near the eyes, or nose.

  • Children are closer in height to puppies and the ground, placing them closer to the source of feces and increasing contact with the animal.

  • More contact with the animal increases the likelihood of being exposed to the bacteria and accidentally ingesting it.

  • Children's immune systems are not as built-up as adults and are more susceptible to the bacteria and will have a harder time fighting off the illness.

The CDC also mentions that C. jejuni is difficult to treat due to the bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotic treatment.

How to Protect Your Children


Take precaution with basic hygiene by following these recommendations from the CDC:

  • Always supervise children, and wash your child’s hands with soap and water after handling a dog.

  • Clean up urine, feces, or vomit immediately. Keep children away and disinfect the area with a water and bleach solution.

  • Ensure your children don’t consume food or drink that has been on the floor or touched by the dog.

  • Don’t let dogs lick your child’s face or areas with broken skin.

Symptoms to Watch For

A puppy carrying the bacteria may still appear healthy. However, looking for signs of the bacteria in your puppy can combat the spread of illness to your children:

  • If you’re picking a puppy, select one that is bright, alert, and playful.

  • Symptoms include tiredness, not eating, diarrhea, and abnormal breathing.

  • If you notice symptoms, take your dog to the veterinarian immediately and alert the group where the dog was purchased or adopted.

Noticing the signs of the infection in people is key to apt treatment

The World Health Organization states that C. jejuni infections can be fatal among children, so it’s important to monitor the health of your children.

  • Bloody diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps appear approximately 2-5 days after being exposed to the bacteria.

  • Antibiotics are only needed for patients who are severely ill or at high risk for diseases, such as children or those with weakened immune systems.

  • If symptoms are observed, take your child to the emergency room right away.

During the holiday season, it is crucial to be smart when picking a puppy and keeping your children safe. By taking preventative measures and paying close attention to the warning signs, C. jejuni can be avoided to ensure a happy holiday for everyone.

Thank you to Kyra Wells for writing this informative blog:

Kyra Wells is an intern for the Institute for Childhood Preparedness, as well as a freshman at Miami University of Ohio. She graduated from Edgewood High School with honors in 2019 and is currently working on a B.S. in Public Health and looks to obtain a M.S. and further. Kyra currently holds a 4.0 GPA and is involved in Cru and the intramural Cross Country/Track team.

The Institute for Childhood Preparedness has decades of experience in emergency preparedness and public health. Our 2020 training calendar is filling up fast! Schedule training in English or Spanish with us today:



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