I’m giving my brain a short break from canine flu, so here’s an interesting report about a multistate US outbreak of salmonellosis linked to… no, not turtles… no, not baby poultry… but guinea pigs.

While guinea pigs have been associated with a few different zoonotic diseases, they’re a pretty benign pet species overall. Yet, our common refrain is that low risk doesn’t mean no risk, and strange things happen all the time with infectious diseases.

This CDC report describes a relatively small outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis infections between July 2015 and December 2017 linked to guinea pigs. Here are the highlights:

  • Nine infections were identified. As always this is presumably an underestimateof total cases because most affected people probably didn’t go to a doctor and get tested.
  • One person was hospitalized. No one died.
  • Four of seven people who were interviewed reported guinea pig contact. In one case, the same strain was found in a person and their guinea pig. This strain was closely related by whole genome sequencing to the isolates from the other people, suggesting this was truly a guinea pig-associated outbreak.

There was no evidence (or suggestion) of the source of infection of the guinea pigs themselves. Large scale breeding and warehouse-type distribution of small pets is a potential way to spread infectious diseases over wide distances, so that could have been involved here. Regardless, it’s yet another good general reminder that basic precautions, particularly good hand hygiene, should be used when handling any pet.