Bearded dragons could be linked to salmonella poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released a report on the outbreak Thursday.
In the last two years, 132 people in 31 states have became infected with a rare form of salmonella bacteria. Thirty-one answered a detailed questionnaire about their illness; of those, 21 said they handled or own a bearded dragon.
They can appear clean and healthy but still shed the bacteria, experts say.
Among 132 persons for whom information is available, dates that illnesses began range from February 20, 2012 to April 1, 2014. Those infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Cotham have been reported from 31 states since February 21, 2012. The number of ill persons identified in each state is as follows (listed in alphabetical order): Arizona (4), California (21), Colorado (2), Florida (3), Georgia (1), Idaho (3), Illinois (6), Kansas (6), Kentucky (4), Maryland (3), Massachusetts (1), Michigan (5), Minnesota (3), Missouri (7), Nebraska (1), Nevada (3), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (3), New York (10), North Carolina (2), Ohio (1), Oregon (2), Pennsylvania (5), South Carolina (1), South Dakota (1), Tennessee (5), Texas (6), Utah (3), Virginia (3), Washington (4), and Wisconsin (12).
Fifty-eight percent of ill persons are children 5 years of age or younger. Fifty-one percent of ill persons are female. Among 67 ill persons with available information, 28 (42%) have been hospitalized. No deaths have been reported.
“We are confident bearded dragons are the source of the outbreak” said Casey Barton Behravesh of the CDC.
The pet industry is working closely with the CDC to determine the source of the bearded dragons linked to this salmonella outbreak in order to prevent any additional illnesses. Multiple bearded dragon breeders have been identified that supply lizards to pet stores in the United States where ill persons reported purchasing their animals.
The CDC officials remind owners they should wash their hands thoroughly after handling the lizards and keep them out of kitchens, sinks and bathtubs. They also should be kept away from small children.
Other pets that carry salmonella include frogs, toads, turtles, snakes, hedgehogs, chicks and ducklings.
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