By Dr. Becker
The CDC has traced a two-year-old salmonella outbreak to bearded dragons kept as pets. The bearded dragons were purchased from a number of stores in multiple states.
Salmonella Outbreak Sickens 132 People in 31 States
The salmonella outbreak is relatively small. From February 2012 through April 2014, 132 people had been sickened in 31 states, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. The largest number of cases were reported in California (21), New York (10), and Wisconsin (12).
Over half (58 percent) of those infected were children under five years of age, less than half of those sickened required hospitalization, and no deaths have been reported.
According to CDC researchers, the sickness is being caused by a rare serotype of salmonella, Salmonella cotham, which typically causes fewer than 25 reported infections in the U.S. each year. The researchers collected salmonella samples from three patients and discovered that one sample was resistant to an antibiotic used to treat serious salmonella infections called ceftriaxone. The CDC is continuing to test samples from other patients for antibiotic resistance.
CDC Advice to Pet Reptile Owners
Bearded dragons are native to Australia and have become very popular as pets in the U.S. The vast majority that enter the pet trade are born in captivity. According to the CDC, the pet trade is working with public health officials to determine the source of the bearded dragons linked to the Salmonella cotham outbreak.
Like dogs and cats, healthy, clean reptiles may naturally harbor salmonella bacteria, and while it doesn't make them sick, this same bacteria can be a source of human salmonella infections.
The CDC offers the following recommendations for protecting yourself and your family – especially kids – from contact with reptile-related salmonella bacteria:
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds immediately after touching reptiles or any item they might have touched or that is in their habitat, including their food. Supervise young children to insure they wash their hands thoroughly.
- Don't allow reptiles in food or drink prep areas, or where human consumables are served or stored.
- Don't let reptiles roam freely in the house.
- Don't touch your mouth after handling reptiles, and don't eat or drink around them.
- Avoid bathing reptiles in the kitchen sink, bathroom sinks, or bathtubs. Designate a separate tub or bin exclusively for reptile bathing.
- Take all equipment and materials used in the care of reptiles outside the house for cleaning. This includes tanks, feed and water containers, and items used for bathing.
- Use soap or a disinfectant to thoroughly clean all surfaces that have been in contact with reptiles.
- Children under five, older adults, people with weakened immune systems and pregnant women should not handle or touch reptiles, or anything in their habitats.
- Reptiles should not be kept in childcare centers, nursery schools or any facility with children younger than five years of age.