May 20, 2022

Salmonella Uganda Outbreak Linked to Pet Bearded Dragons

A Salmonella Uganda outbreak linked to pet bearded dragons has sickened at least 44 people in 15 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fifteen people have been hospitalized because they are so ill.

Salmonella Uganda Outbreak Linked to Pet Bearded Dragons

The patient case count by state is: Alabama (1), Arkansas (2), California (3), Connecticut (1), Florida (1), Kansas (1), Louisiana (1), Massachusetts (1), Minnesota (1), Missouri (1), Montana (2), Nebraska (1), Nevada (2), New Mexico (1), New York (1), Oregon (3), Pennsylvania (2), Rhode Island (3), South Carolina (1), South Dakota (2), Texas (2), Utah (2), Virginia (1), Washington (4), and Wisconsin (4). The patient age range is from less than one to 84 years. Illness onset dates range from December 24, 2020 to December 2, 2021. The hospitalization rate is 41%.

Epidemiologic and traceback evidence indicates that pet bearded dragons have made people sick. In interviews with public health officials, 21 of 33 people, or 64%, said they owned or touched bearded dragons or their supplies before getting sick. The animals were purchased from various places, including pet stores and online.

Whole genome sequencing performed on patient isolates showed they were closely related genetically. That means that people likely got sick from contact with the same type of animal. In addition, the Oregon Health Authority collected samples from a bearded dragon who lived in a sick person’s home for testing. Whole genome sequencing showed that the Salmonella on that animal is closely related to bacteria from sick people.

Bearded dragons can carry Salmonella in their droppings even if they look healthy and clean. The bacteria can be on their bodies and anything in their environment. You can get sick from touching the pet or anything in their environment, then eating without washing your hands or touching your mouth.

To protect yourself and your family, do not let young children snuggle or kiss the animal. Keep the bearded dragons out of your kitchen and other areas where you eat or where food is stored or prepared. Clean the pet supplies outside of your house. If you clean them indoors, use a laundry sink or bathtub, not the kitchen sink. Remember that bearded dragons and reptiles are not recommended as pets for children under the age of 5 and adults who are 65 and older, as well as people with weakened immune systems. Those populations are more likely to get seriously ill from Salmonella infections.

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