A playground in New South Wales, Australia, has been closed because its sandpit was linked to salmonellosis in two children. Sandboxes are a potential source of a few different infectious diseases since they can be used as litterboxes by animals such as cats, raccoons, and apparently, bandicoots.
In the Australian incident, two kids were diagnosed with salmonellosis and public health’s investigation presumably identified the sandpit as a common exposure. The kids were infected with Salmonella Java, a type that’s been found in various animals and has been linked to bandicoots in Australia. Salmonella Java has previously been implicated as the cause of a sandbox-associated outbreak in Australia, along with an outbreak associated with beaches.
It’s not clear from the news report whether there was confirmation of the sandbox as the source. It says the sandbox was tested, but not whether it was positive. Given the Salmonella serovar and the sandbox link, it would be a fairly solid presumptive diagnosis even without a confirmed bacterial culture.
Prevention of sandbox-associated disease can be difficult, depending on the situation. Covering sandboxes is ideal, but not always feasible (and not an option for a beach, obviously). Additional protective measures such as paying attention to hand hygiene, supervising kids so they don’t put sand or sandy objects in their mouths (sometimes easier said than done!) and paying extra attention to hygiene if they are eating in/around sand make sense and are practical. These measures don’t remove all the risk, but zero risk isn’t a realistic goal.
Image: Eastern barred bandicoot, Australia (credit: JJ Harrison 2010)