Update for Amphibian Owners: Frogs Still Spreading Salmonella

Frog on a LotusAccording to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a total of 217 people have been infected over a two-year period with a strain of Salmonella Typhimurium associated with African dwarf frogs.

According to dvm360:

CDC began tracking the outbreak in April 2009. A single water frog breeder in California was identified in 2010 as the source of African dwarf frogs associated with the human infections.

 Local health department staff revisited the breeder in March 2011 to take updated samples, and CDC says Salmonella bacteria was found once again.

Additional testing is being conducted to determine if the Salmonella strain found at the breeding facility is the same strain present in the current outbreak strain.

The states with the most reported cases include Washington, Utah, California, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Virginia and Arizona.

No one has died from an infection, but over 70 percent of patients are under 10 years of age. Symptoms typically last from four to seven days and include fever, abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Among those infected, 34 percent have required hospitalization, primarily due to severe diarrhea.

Per the CDC over 60 percent of those infected had contact with water frogs within a week of becoming ill, and over 80 percent identified the frogs specifically as African dwarf frogs.
Dr. Becker's Comments:

It’s hard to belief this harmless-looking little fellow, the African dwarf frog, is behind a salmonella outbreak that has sickened over 200 people.

How These Little Water Frogs Transmit Salmonella

Amphibians, in this case the African dwarf frog, can be perfectly healthy and still carry salmonella bacteria on their bodies.

As he goes about his frog day in his habitat, typically an aquarium, he transfers the bacteria into the water, onto gravel and other surfaces, and even deposits it into the water filtration system.

All it takes is for you to put a hand in the aquarium and the salmonella germ can be transferred from the contaminated water. The bacteria is now on your hands, and if you don’t immediately do a thorough job scrubbing it from your hands, it can make you sick and even be passed on to others, making them sick.

How to Know If You’re Infected

If you become infected with the salmonella germ, symptoms will appear within 12 to 72 hours after exposure. You may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Definitive diagnosis of infection is made through a stool sample.

A salmonella infection typically runs its course in four to seven days, but it can become serious enough to require hospitalization. If the bacteria travels from the intestines to the bloodstream and other organs, death can result unless prompt treatment is given.

People with impaired immune systems, young children and the elderly are more likely to become seriously ill from a salmonella infection.

If you have children at home and an aquarium, it’s very important the kids understand how to properly handle both the tank and its contents. If you suspect your child has a salmonella infection, you should contact your health care provider immediately.

In general, it’s considered a bad idea for families with children five years or younger to keep amphibians or reptiles as pets.

Preventing a Salmonella Infection from Pet Amphibians and Reptiles

Herpers (people that keep amphibians and reptiles) recognize that bacteria normal to the species they keep can be very abnormal to people. This is important knowledge to keep in mind prior to deciding to care for herps. The decision to care for amphibians and reptiles must be made recognizing the risks associated with trans species bacterial contamination.

I have kept frogs, lizards, snakes, turtles and tortoises my whole life and encourage people to investigate how amazing these animals can be as pets. However, knowing what you can do to reduce the possibility of zoonotic disease is very important:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling any amphibian or reptile, or anything your pet has come in contact with.
  • Closely supervise any children who handle amphibians, reptiles or their habitats, and help the little ones wash their hands properly.
  • Children five and under should not handle these pets or any components of their habitats.
  • Elderly members of the household or anyone with a compromised immune system should also avoid contact with these pets and their habitats.
  • If anyone in your household develops the symptoms of salmonella infection, contact a health care provider and advise them of any contact with reptiles or amphibians.
  • Amphibians and reptiles should not be kept in child-care centers, nor should they be housed in children’s bedrooms.
  • Don’t allow these pets to roam around your house, and especially not in food and drink preparation areas.
  • When cleaning a reptile or amphibian habitat, wear disposable gloves and if possible, do the cleaning outdoors. Don’t clean the habitat near any food or drink preparation areas, sources of food or drinking water, or the kitchen sink. Discard the gloves after cleaning the habitat, and wash your hands and any exposed areas of your arms thoroughly.
  • Don’t bathe these pets in the kitchen sink or near any food or drink preparation areas. If you bathe your reptiles or amphibians in the bathtub or use it for habitat cleaning, thoroughly clean and disinfect it afterward to kill any bacteria that may have transferred to tub surfaces.

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