23 Salmonella Diseases Linked to Bearded Dragons
The CDC announced that 23 people have been infected with Salmonella Vitkin and IIIb from bearded dragons. Epidemiological and laboratory data show that contact with pet bearded dragons makes people sick in both outbreaks.
Illnesses have been reported in 15 states and as of October 12, 2022, 8 of the 23 illnesses have required hospitalizations. The sick people are between less than 1 year and 75 years old. Ten of the patients are less than a year old. No deaths have been reported. The illnesses began on dates ranging from March 24, 2021 to September 13, 2022. Of the 20 people interviewed, 11 said they had contact with a pet bearded dragon before falling ill.
The CDC is working with the bearded dragon industry and the pet industry to reduce Salmonella in bearded dragons. Bearded dragons can carry Salmonella in their feces even if they look healthy and clean. Salmonella can then easily spread to their body and anything in the area where they live and travel.
Pet owners can get sick by touching their bearded dragon or anything in its environment and then touching their mouth or face.
The actual number of sick people in these outbreaks is likely much higher than the number reported, and these outbreaks may not be limited to states where the illnesses are known. Indeed, many people recover without medical attention and are not tested for Salmonella.
Salmonella Vitkin outbreak
- Of the six people who said they had contact with bearded dragons, four said they bought their bearded dragons from different pet stores. Investigators are trying to determine if there is a common supplier of bearded dragons.
Salmonella Epidemic IIIb
- Utah public health officials identified the epidemic strain from samples taken from a sick person’s bearded dragon and its habitat.
- Of the 5 people who said they had contact with bearded dragons, all said they had purchased or had contact with bearded dragons at different pet stores. Investigators are trying to determine if there is a common supplier of bearded dragons.
CDC tips on how to stay healthy around your bearded dragon:
- wash your hands
- Always wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water immediately after touching or feeding your bearded dragon and after touching or cleaning the area where it lives and roams.
- Adults should make sure young children wash their hands.
- Play it safe
- Do not kiss or cuddle your bearded dragon or eat or drink around it. This can spread Salmonella in your mouth and make you sick.
- Keep your bearded dragon out of your kitchen and other places where you eat, store, or prepare food.
- Keep things clean
- Clean your bearded dragon supplies outside the home, if possible. These supplies may include feeders, toys, and food and water containers.
- If you clean supplies indoors, do not clean them in the kitchen or other places where you eat or prepare food. Use a sink or tub, then clean and disinfect the area thoroughly right after.
If you are considering getting a pet bearded dragon:
- Choose the right pet for your family
- Bearded dragons and other reptiles are not recommended for children under 5, adults 65 and older, and people with compromised immune systems. These people are more likely to contract serious illness from bacteria that reptiles can carry.
About Salmonella Infections
Anyone can get a Salmonella infection. Infants, children, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of serious illness because their immune systems are fragile, according to the CDC. Some people are infected without getting sick or showing symptoms. However, they can still transmit the infections to others.
Anyone who has handled their pet and develops symptoms of Salmonella infection should seek medical attention. Sick people should tell their doctor about possible exposure to Salmonella bacteria, as special tests are needed to diagnose salmonellosis. Symptoms of Salmonella infection can mimic other illnesses, often leading to misdiagnosis.
Symptoms of Salmonella infection can include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever within 12 to 72 hours of eating contaminated food. Otherwise, healthy adults are usually sick for four to seven days. In some cases, however, the diarrhea can be so severe that patients need to be hospitalized.
The elderly, children, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, are more likely to develop serious illnesses and serious, sometimes fatal, conditions.
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