Salmonella Risk From Pet Rodents


Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on January 03, 2007 From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 3, 2007 — People can get diarrhea-causing salmonellabacteria from pet rodents, experts warn in The New England Journal ofMedicine.

Usually, people get salmonella from contaminated food, but they can also getit from contact with animals, note the CDC’s Stephen Swanson, MD, andcolleagues.

In the journal, Swanson’s team notes 15 people sickened by salmonella linkedto pet hamsters, mice, or rats in the U.S. between December 2003 and September2004.

Thirteen contracted salmonella directly from the pets. The other two gotsalmonella from people who had direct contact with pet rodents.

Six patients were hospitalized; four of the hospitalized patients were lessthan 8 years old.

The cases spanned 10 states, had no apparent link, and involved adrug-resistant type of salmonella.

Such drug resistance may be partly due to widespread preventive use ofantimicrobial chemicals in the “pocket pet” industry, the researcherswrite.

Tips For People With Pet Rodents

“Consumers and those who work with animals should be aware that rodentscan shed salmonella and should expect rodent feces to be potentiallyinfectious,” Swanson’s team writes.

“Handling of pet rodents is a potential health risk, especially forchildren,” they continue.

“To reduce salmonella transmissions, the hands should be washedthoroughly with soap and water after handling rodents, their cages, or theirbedding,” write Swanson and colleagues.

The CDC’s web site includes these additional tips:

  • Closely supervise young children who clean pet rodents’ cages. Make surethey wash their hands immediately afterward.
  • Don’t eat food or smoke while handling your pet rodent.
  • Don’t handle pet rodents in food preparation areas.
  • Don’t kiss your pet rodent or hold it close to your mouth.

Show Sources

SOURCES: Swanson, S. The New England Journal of Medicine, Jan. 4,2007; vol 356: pp 21-28. CDC: “Salmonella from Pocket Pets.”

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