November 25, 2020 – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) andpublic health officials in several states investigated a multistate outbreakof human Salmonella Muenster infections linked to pet bearded dragons. Theinvestigation is now over. CDC will continue to work with state public healthpartners to monitor for Salmonella infections linked to contact with petbearded dragons.
As of November 20, 2020, a total of 18 people infected with the outbreakstrain of Salmonella Muenster were reported from 11 states. Eleven ill peoplewere hospitalized, and no deaths were reported. Illnesses started on datesranging from January 29, 2020, to October 17, 2020. Ill people ranged in agefrom less than 1 year to 76 years, with a median age of 26 years. Six illpeople are children under 5 years of age. Fifty-six percent of ill people werefemale.
Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence showed that contact with pet beardeddragons was the likely source of this outbreak. In interviews, 11 (69%) of 16ill people reported contact with a bearded dragon before getting sick. Illpeople reported purchasing bearded dragons from pet stores in multiple states.A common supplier was not identified. The outbreak strain making people sickwas identified in samples collected from a bearded dragon and its environmentfrom the home of an ill person in Virginia.
Most people infected with Salmonella develop diarrhea, fever and abdominalcramps between six hours and six days after infection. The illness usuallylasts four to seven days, and most individuals recover without treatment.Children under the age of five, senior citizens and individuals with weakenedimmune systems have a greater risk of infection and complications.
Animals become infected with Salmonella through their environment, by eatingcontaminated food, or from their mothers before they are born or hatched.Regardless of where they are purchased, many animals can carry Salmonellaand still appear health and clean. Animals with Salmonella shed the bacteriain their stool which can contaminate their body parts or items in theirhabitat, such as bedding, food or water. People can be infected if they do notwash their hands after contact with animals carrying Salmonella or theirenvironment.
The CDC and expert sources recommend these precautions to protect yourself andothers from contact with Salmonella bacteria that reptiles, includingbearded dragons, may carry:
- Supervise children’s interactions with the animal, including post-encounter hand-washing.
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with water and soap right after touching, feeding, or caring for a bearded dragon or cleaning its habitat .
- Do not let the animal into areas where food or drink is prepared, served, or stored.
- Do not snuggle or kiss the animal, or touch your mouth, eat or drink around them.
- To prevent cross-contamination, clean items you use to care for your bearded dragon outside the house, if possible. Items you use to care for it may include tanks, food and water containers, and toys. If you clean these items indoors, do not clean them in the kitchen or other areas where food is eaten or prepared. Use a laundry sink or bathtub, and thoroughly clean and disinfect the area immediately.
- Pick the right pet for your family. Bearded dragons and other reptiles are not recommended for children under the age of five, adults aged 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems because they are more likely to get serious illness from germs that reptiles can carry.
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council reminds consumers that they shouldcheck their state, local, and property laws before buying any reptile, to makesure it is legal to own one in their community. Consumers should only purchasepets from reputable pet stores or breeders. Pet retailers are encouraged toprovide information on disease risk and prevention measures to consumerspurchasing pets, and to employees handling these companion animals.
- CDC Investigation Notice: https://www.cdc.gov/ salmonella/ muenster-10-20/index.html
- CDC information on diseases and prevention for reptile owners: https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pets/reptiles.html
- CDC Stay Healthy Around Pet Reptiles and Amphibians poster: Stay healthy around pet reptiles and amphibians (cdc.gov)
- CDC information on safe handling of reptiles and amphibians: Safe Handling of Pet Reptiles & Amphibians | Healthy Pets, Healthy People | CDC
- CDC information on Salmonella :https://www.cdc.gov/ salmonella /
- PIJAC flyer containing information on Salmonella for retailers: https://pijac.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/FLYERSalmonellosis071117.pdf
- PIJAC Healthy Herp Handling Poster: Healthy Herp Handling | PIJAC
- PIJAC health alerts on zoonotic diseases: https://pijac.org/animal-welfare-and-programs/zoonotic-disease-prevention/healthalerts
- PIJAC website updates on this outbreak and other zoonotic issues: http://www.pijac.org
CDC information on outbreaks of zoonotic diseases spread between animals andhumans in the United States: https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/outbreaks.html
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