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Pet Frogs Sicken 217 with Salmonella Infections

Water frogs – African dwarf frogs to be exact – are thought to be responsible, once again, for an outbreak of Salmonella that this time has sickened at least 217 people in 41 states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Thursday.


Frogs from a single breeder in California have been linked to the human infections. Most of those sick are children.

The same breeding facility was identified as the source of illnesses last year as well, CDC said.

Because this seems to be an ongoing problem, CDC officials said local health department officials visited the frog breeder in late March to collect environmental samples. The samples, tested in CDC labs, were positive for Salmonella, now additional testing is being conducted to see if this matches the outbreak strain.

According to the CDC report, 71 percent of those ill are younger than 10 and one-third have had diarrhea so severe they needed to be hospitalized.

Washington state has reported 23 cases connected to the frog outbreak.  There are 18 cases in Utah; 17 in California; 14 in Pennsylvania; 12 in Colorado; 11 in Virginia; 10 in Arizona; 8 in Illinois; 7 in New York and Ohio; 6 in Massachusetts and Michigan; 5 in Alaska, Maryland, Missouri and Oregon; 4 in Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas; 3 in Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, South Dakota and Wisconsin; 2 in Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, and New Mexico; and 1 in Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Vermont and West Virginia.

In interviews, 64 percent of those sickened said they had contact with frogs in the week before they became ill. Of those who could remember what kind of frog they’d touched, 84 percent identified African dwarf frogs. CDC said the median time between acquiring a frog and the onset of illness was 15 days.

Water frogs aren’t appropriate pets for children under 5 and should not be present in homes with children that young, the CDC advises.  

If you have water frogs, health officials say you should wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling anything, including water, that has been inside the aquarium or fish tank. Don’t use the kitchen sink to empty or wash the tank. If you use a bathtub to clean the frog tank, clean the tub afterward and disinfect it with bleach. 

Most persons infected with Salmonella bacteria develop diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually lasts 4 to 7 very unpleasant days, and most people recover without treatment.

However, for some, the illness is far more acute. Salmonella infection may spread from the intestines to the bloodstream and beyond, and can cause death unless treated promptly with antibiotics. The elderly, infants and young children, and those with impaired immune systems are the most at risk. The CDC warns that those people especially should avoid contact with water frogs and anything that comes in contact with the frogs, their water, and their habitat.

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