The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that at least 15 people in nine states have been sickened with Salmonella linked to pet bearded dragons. Four people have required hospitalization, but no deaths have been reported.

New York has reported four cases, Ohio and California have each reported three patients, and Iowa, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia have each reported a single patient. The outbreak strain is Salmonella Cotham. 

“The true number of sick people in an outbreak is likely much higher than the number reported, and the outbreak may not be limited to the states with known illnesses,” according to the CDC’s outbreak announcement.

Nine patients are preschoolers.

Sixty percent of sick people are children younger than 5 years old. 

“Bearded dragons are not recommended as pets for children younger than 5, adults aged 65 or older, and people with weakened immune systems because these people are more likely to get a serious illness from germs that reptiles carry,” according to the CDC

Illnesses started on dates ranging from January 8, 2024, to May 16, 2024. Of the 12 people interviewed, 7 reported contact with a bearded dragon before getting sick. At least one child did not report contact, suggesting he or she was likely exposed indirectly at home.

The CDC warned that pet dragons can shed Salmonella through feces even when appearing healthy. Contact between pet dragons and children 5 and younger should be avoided if possible because of the risk of illness.