The US CDC is reporting yet another multistate Salmonella outbreak linked to reptiles. This one is an outbreak of Salmonella Cotham that, as of April 21, has infected at least 132 people in 31 states.
The story is pretty similar to other reptile-associated Salmonella incidents.
58% of infected individuals are kids five years of age or younger.
- That’s presumably a result of both higher risk contact by young kids (especially kissing reptiles) and the fact that young kids are at increased risk of getting sick when exposed to the bacterium.
42% of infected people have been hospitalized.
- That’s a pretty high number compared to many other outbreaks. However, the actual overall hospitalization rate is probably lower, since it’s likely that many people had mild infections that were not diagnosed. Fortunately, no one died.
This Salmonella type is pretty rare, which makes it easier to trace it to a specific source. The investigation in this case traced it back to bearded dragons purchased as pets from a variety of stores in different states. Further investigation of the source is ongoing, and breeders that supplied the pet stores are being identified.
Of particular concern here was the presence of resistance to ceftriaxone, an important antibiotic, in a strain from at least one person. That’s something we don’t want spreading, since ceftriazone is often used to treat people with serious Salmonella infections.
Bearded dragons have a lot of personality (for reptiles), and are interesting little critters, so they’ve become popular pets. Like all other reptiles, they pose a risk of Salmonella exposure, and they shouldn’t be in households with high-risk individual (i.e. kids less than five years of age, elderly individuals, pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals). People who own "beardies" should use good hygiene practices and a solid dose of common sense to reduce the risk of salmonellosis.
More information about Salmonella and reptiles is available on the Worms & Germs Resources – Pets page.