One person has died as a result of a Salmonella outbreak that has been linked to snakes and rodents, according to a notice issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada.

The agency is advising individuals to take precautions to prevent further infections. The outbreak has affected 45 people across eight provinces, with confirmed cases reported in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Labrador, between February 2022 and March 2023.

It is easy for Salmonella from animals to cross-contaminate food and food surfaces if good hygiene is not practiced. Children should not be allowed to handle snakes or feeder rodents without supervision for washing their hands afterward. Feeder rodents should not be kept in refrigerators or freezers where human food is stored.

Many of the individuals who became sick reported having direct or indirect contact with snakes and feeder rodents before their illnesses occurred, according to the report. The agency is working with provincial public health partners to investigate the outbreak, which is ongoing as new illnesses continue to be reported.

Of the 45 confirmed cases, nine individuals have been hospitalized.  One person has died and provincial public health partners have confirmed that Salmonella was the cause of death. Nine patients were children younger than five years of age, and approximately half of them were male.

To prevent the spread of the illness, individuals are advised to practice good hand hygiene, frequent handwashing, and safe handling of snakes and rodents, their food, and their environments. Reptile owners and business operators are also advised to take precautions to prevent new illnesses linked to these types of animals and their food.

Salmonella infection symptoms include fever, chills, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps. While most people who become ill from a Salmonella infection will recover fully after a few days, children aged five years and under, older adults, pregnant people, or people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk of contracting a serious illness.

According to public health officials, reptiles and rodents can carry Salmonella, and individuals can become infected after touching them, their food, or their habitats. They are urging people to wash their hands thoroughly after handling pet snakes or rodents and to avoid kissing or snuggling them.

In addition, public health officials recommend that reptiles and rodents should not be kept in homes, daycare centers, or schools with children younger than five years old. Young children are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if infected with Salmonella. Pregnant women, seniors, and people with weakened immune systems are also at a higher risk of serious illness.

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