Is Campylobacter Contagious?

Contact with pet-store puppies is the likely source of the latest campylobacter outbreak. cynoclub/Shutterstock

Dogs give us unconditional love and constant companionship.

Unfortunately, sometimes they also give us a number of zoonoses, or diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans.

You know about zoonotic diseases like rabies and maybe ringworm and roundworm, but recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a multi-state outbreak of campylobacter jejuni infections.

Campylobacter infection affects more than 1.5 million people every year. Oftentimes campylobacter infections are associated with eating raw or undercooked poultry, dairy products, produce or other foods that have been contaminated by those items. Campylobacter bacteria also can be spread through contact with dog and cat feces.

This current outbreak is linked to contact with puppies from pet stores.

As of mid-December, 30 people infected with the strain of Campylobacter jejuni have been reported from 13 states, the CDC reports. Of the 24 infected people the CDC interviewed, 21 reported contact with a puppy and 15 of those 21 specifically mentioned contact with a pet-store puppy. A dozen of those people were linked to the national chain, Petland, and five were store employees.

A similar outbreak that started in January 2016 and ran through February 2018 made 118 people in 18 states ill — many due to contact with pet-store puppies.

Symptoms and spreading the virus

Although the bacteria can be spread from puppies to people, it's not usually spread from person to person, says the CDC.

Typical campylobacter symptoms include diarrhea, fever and cramps. Sometimes people may also have nausea and vomiting.

Symptoms usually start within two to five days after being exposed to the bacteria and last about a week. However, people can continue to shed bacteria in their stool for several weeks after symptoms have wrapped up. That's one way that it can be spread from person to person, and why good hygiene is important.

Preventing campylobacter infections

washing hands with soap and water
Wash your hands before handling food to help spread the contamination of salmonella. (Photo: hxdbzxy/Shutterstock)

To avoid getting sick, hand-washing is key, says the CDC.

Always wash your hands with soap and water after touching a pet, after handling their food, and after cleaning up after them. If you don't have soap and water, then use hand sanitizer until you can get to a sink. Adults should supervise children as they wash their hands.

If your dog has an accident of any kind in the house, clean it up immediately, then disinfect the area using a water and bleach solution. Remove feces from your yard to prevent kids or other dogs from coming in contact with it.

Other important hygiene tips:

  • Wash your hands before and after preparing food.
  • Wash your hands after going to the bathroom and after taking care of someone who is sick.
  • Keep uncooked meat and poultry away from other foods.