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Oh Rats! They Carry Salmonella, Too

Along with reports of Salmonella infection outbreaks involving contact with chicks and ducks, tiny turtles and pet frogs, add 46 cases of Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- infection linked to handling rodents sold as food for pet reptiles and amphibians.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in its April 20 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report “Notes from the Field,” says 22 states are reporting the illnesses, and that the median age of those stricken is 11 years old. More than one third of those ill are younger than 5. At least 6 case patients have been hospitalized.

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Many of the children and others infected reported handling live or frozen rats or mice, which the CDC refers to as “feeder rodents.”

Tests of frozen mice from two North Carolina pet stores yielded the outbreak strain, which was also implicated in feeder-rodent outbreaks in 2009 and 2010, according to the CDC.

Both those earlier outbreaks were traced to a single U.S. supplier, who recalled contaminated frozen rodents.

Now, given the wide distribution of illnesses caused by Salmonella I 4,[5],12:i:- linked to handling pet-food rodents, the CDC suggests “the outbreak strain might now be endemic” in these critters.

The CDC says owners of pet reptiles, amphibians, or other animals that are fed rodents should be aware of the risk for salmonellosis from their pets as well as from the live and frozen rodents used to feed them.

“Safe handling instructions for all of these animals should be provided at the point of sale,” the public health agency advises.

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