The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating two separate multistate Salmonella illness outbreaks, one linked to contact with pet bearded dragons and one linked to contact with pet hedgehogs, officials said in a statement. The CDC notice indicated the pets were bought from various places, such as pet stores and breeders, however, a common source has not yet been identified, according to officials.
As of press time, there had been 13 reported cases, including five under the age of five, of Salmonella Muenster linked to contact with pet bearded dragons. Cases were reported in Idaho, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington. Of the 13 reported cases, seven people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
The outbreaks are linked to pet bearded dragons based on epidemiologic and laboratory evidence, officials said, including the following:
- In interviews, 10 of 13 ill people reported contact with a bearded dragon.
- Ill people reported purchasing bearded dragons from pet stores in multiple states. A common supplier has not been identified, officials said.
- The outbreak strain making people sick was identified in samples collected from a bearded dragon and its environment from the home of an ill person in Virginia.
Thirty-two people have been infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Typhimurium, which is linked to contact with pet hedgehogs. Cases were reported in Arizona, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia. Of the 32 reported cases, five people have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
Officials point to pet hedgehogs as the likely source of this outbreak based on the following:
- In interviews, 16 of 23 ill people reported contact with a hedgehog.
- Ill people reported buying hedgehogs from various sources, including pet stores, breeders or online stores. A common source of hedgehogs has not been identified, officials said.
- The outbreak strain making people sick was identified in samples collected from a hedgehog in the home of an ill person in New York.
- This outbreak strain is the same as outbreaks linked to hedgehogs in 2012 and in 2019.
CDC offered the following advice to stores that sell or display reptiles:
- Educate customers about how to stay healthy around reptiles, such as displaying informational posters by the reptile area. A sample poster offered by the CDC can be found here.
- Learn more about how to protect customers and employees from Salmonella infection and other diseases shared between animals and humans. The “2017 Compendium of Measures to Prevent Disease Associated with Animals in Public Settings,” published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, can be found here.
CDC also officials offered safe handling techniques for handling pet bearded dragons and hedgehogs:
- Always wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching your pet or anything in its environment.
- Don’t kiss or snuggle your pet because this can spread Salmonella germs to your face and mouth and make you sick.
- Keep your pet out of your kitchen and other areas where you eat, store or prepare food.
- Clean items you use to care for your pet outside the house, if possible. If you clean the items indoors, clean them in a laundry sink or bathtub. Make sure to thoroughly disinfect the area right after.
- Don’t let children younger than five touch the bearded dragon or hedgehog because young children are more likely to have severe Salmonella illness.
- Before bringing home a new pet, research the pet’s needs and see if it’s a good fit for your family
The investigations are ongoing, officials said, adding that they will provide more information as it becomes available.