Knoxville pet store part of national disease outbreak

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Tennessee Department of Health confirmed a pet store in Knoxville was impacted by an outbreak of Campylobacter after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning.

The CDC says the outbreak is linked to puppies sold by national pet store chain Petland. The company, however, stresses that any dog or puppy can have the germ and their policies and procedures are not to blame.

Campylobacter is an infection that can spread to humans by contact with dog feces. Symptoms appear within two to five days and include diarrhea, nausea, intestinal cramping and vomiting.

The outbreak includes 39 people in seven states, including one case reported in Tennessee. Twelve of those are employees of Petland and the other 27 said they recently purchased a puppy there, visited a location or live in a home with a puppy purchased at Petland.

Workers at the store in Knoxville don’t believe their location was involved in the Tennessee case.

More online: CDC’s page on Campylobacter

The CDC says epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicates puppies sold at Petland are a likely source of the outbreak and the store chain is cooperating with health officials to address the outbreak.

The company issued a statement, saying: “Petland is committed and stands ready to assist in identifying any possible link between our pets and this bacterial infection.  Petland has requested but has not been given any information from the CDC or any other health department offices related to the dates, stores, or cities where the 39 infection cases allegedly originated. We have also not been provided any information or location of any employees affected.”

Petland stressed that the CDC itself says that “regardless of where they are from, any puppy and dog may carry Campylobacter germs.” They say the CDC’s questionnaires to the 39 people with the infection were not consistent and didn’t ask the same questions related to the type of food the dogs ate or other contact with the dogs.

Petland says it has given the CDC complete access to its stores, but the CDC has not identified any failures of the stores’ operating system that would lead to Campylobacter infection. They say they reinforce proper hand sanitization before and after handling puppies and they have strict kennel sanitization procedures.

“Regardless of the widely-known threats of campylobacter contamination from dogs from various sources, Petland finds itself the focus of a national inquiry from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state health departments with hundreds of media reports targeting Petland alone while Petland remains in the dark on any information related to these 39 cases,” said the company.

Petland suggests customers should follow proper hand washing techniques to prevent the spread of the germs:

1.     Wet your hands with running water — either warm or cold.

2.     Apply liquid, bar or powder soap.

3.     Lather well.

4.     Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds.

5.     Rinse well.

6.     Dry your hands with a clean or disposable towel or air dryer.

7.     If possible, use a towel or your elbow to turn off the faucet.

8.     If soap and water are not immediately available, use hand sanitizer until you can properly wash.

9.     Adults should monitor children while washing their hands.

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