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Puppies can spread harmful bacteria. Pixabay

Beware of dog, especially the cute puppies in pet store windows, U.S. health officials warn.

A bacteria resistant to common antibiotics has sickened 30 people this year, sending four of them to hospitals, and puppies are the likely culprit, according to an advisory issued late Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The strain, known as Campylobacter jejuni, is closely related to a 2016 outbreak that health officials said was most likely caused by contact with puppies sold at Petland stores, a nationwide chain of franchised pet stores.

That outbreak sickened 113 people in 17 states between January 2016 and January 2018, with 23 of them requiring hospitalization, the CDC said.

In the current outbreak, the CDC said it interviewed 24 of the people afflicted with the disease, 21 of whom reported contact with a puppy, including 15 who had contact with puppies from a pet store.


French Bulldog puppies at the American Kennel Club (AKC) in New York. VOA

Twelve of the people infected were linked to Petland, including five employees of the store chain, the CDC said.

Response from pet store

Chillicothe, Ohio-based Petland said in a statement that it has implemented a host of preventative steps recommended by public health officials since the 2016 outbreak.

In both outbreaks, the company said, the bacteria strain did not originate at any specific Petland store.

“For perspective, more than 12 million guests visit our stores annually and during this specific time period, Petland estimates more than 2.4 million customer socializations of Petland puppies,” it said of the current outbreak.

CDC recommendations

Campylobacter infections generally cause diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps two to five days after exposure, the CDC said. It usually lasts about a week and most people recover without antibiotic treatment, it said.

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The CDC said the disease has been detected in 13 states, including Utah, Wyoming, Minnesota and Maryland, where Petland said it has no stores.

Owners were advised to always wash their hands after touching their dogs or cleaning up after them, have their pets checked regularly by veterinarians, and “don’t let dogs lick around your mouth and face.” (VOA)


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Milky Way galaxy as seen from Chitkul Valley

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has for the first time spotted signs of a planet transiting a star outside of the Milky Way galaxy, opening up a new avenue to search for exoplanets at greater distances than ever before.

The possible exoplanet -- or planets outside of our Solar System -- candidate is located in the spiral galaxy Messier 51 (M51), also called the Whirlpool Galaxy because of its distinctive profile, NASA said in a statement.

Astronomers have, so far, found all other known exoplanets and exoplanet candidates in the Milky Way galaxy, almost all of them less than about 3,000 light-years from Earth.

An exoplanet in M51 would be about 28 million light-years away, meaning it would be thousands of times farther away than those in the Milky Way, NASA said.

"We are trying to open up a whole new arena for finding other worlds by searching for planet candidates at X-ray wavelengths, a strategy that makes it possible to discover them in other galaxies," said Rosanne Di Stefano of the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard and Smithsonian (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the study.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

The exoplanet candidate was spotted in a binary system called M51-ULS-1, located in M51. This binary system contains a black hole or neutron star orbiting a companion star with a mass about 20 times that of the Sun. The X-ray transit they found using Chandra data lasted about three hours, during which the X-ray emission decreased to zero.

Based on this and other information, the team estimates the exoplanet candidate in M51-ULS-1 would be roughly the size of Saturn and orbit the neutron star or black hole at about twice the distance of Saturn from the Sun.

The team looked for X-ray transits in three galaxies beyond the Milky Way galaxy, using both Chandra and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton. Their search covered 55 systems in M51, 64 systems in Messier 101 (the "Pinwheel" galaxy), and 119 systems in Messier 104 (the "Sombrero" galaxy).

However, more data would be needed to verify the interpretation as an extragalactic exoplanet. One challenge is that the planet candidate's large orbit means it would not cross in front of its binary partner again for about 70 years, thwarting any attempts for a confirming observation for decades, NASA said.

Named in honor of the late Indian-American Nobel laureate, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the Chandra X-ray Observatory is the world's most powerful X-ray telescope. It has eight times greater resolution and is able to detect sources more than 20-times fainter than any previous X-ray telescope.

Known to the world as Chandra (which means "moon" or "luminous" in Sanskrit), Chandrasekhar was widely regarded as one of the foremost astrophysicists of the twentieth century. (IANS/JB)


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