More than 132 people have been infected with Salmonella Cotham in the past two years, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that pet bearded dragons are the cause. The agency stated in a press release on Thursday that 58 percent of the people who were sick were children under the age of five, and that 42 percent had been hospitalized. So far nobody had died as a result of the Salmonella that has infected people who have had contact with these popular pet lizards.
It is understood that Salmonella Cotham is quite a rare type of Salmonella and that before this “outbreak” there were not usually more than a couple of dozen infections that were reported in a year. However bearded dragons, which come in various colors, and are native to Australian desert regions, are very popular pets in the U.S. Further, the CDC states that infections can be tracked to multiple stores and 31 states, showing that the problem is widespread.
These colorful reptiles can grow to nearly two feet and they usually sell for anything between $70 and $100 at U.S. pet shops. There is no way you will be able to tell just by looking that they are infected. Like all reptiles, these big lizards shed their skin, and when this happens, the Salmonella germs that cause illness are spread.
The CDC investigation was launched in January this year after the Winsconsin Department of Health drew its attention to several rare Salmonella infections that seemed to have a link with pet lizards. The agency interviewed about 31 people, most of whom had been in contact with some type of reptile – and 21 of whom confirmed they had been in contact with pet bearded dragons.
Antibiotic “resistance testing” was done on the Salmonella Cotham isolates that were taken from three sick people who had been infected by the bacterium. As a result the CDC warns that pet bearded dragons can cause dangerous Salmonella, and since 132 people have already been infected, it is essential to take step to ensure that it will not happen to anyone.
The CDC warns that it is very important to wash hands with soap and water after touching a reptile or any other kind of wildlife. They also have a number of additional tips that include how people get this type of infection from reptiles and amphibians, as well as a list of guidelines that detail how to minimize the risk of infection from these creatures. First and foremost is to be aware of the fact that whatever pet reptiles come into contact with (including cages, terrariums and aquariums), these are regarded as potential contaminants.
In addition to washing hand with warm water and soap after touching reptiles and amphibians, and anything they have come into contact with, these creatures should be kept away from homes where there are very young children (under the age of five) as well as anyone who has a weakened immune system. The CDC advises that those who keep reptiles and amphibians should never dispose of water that has come into contact with these creatures in sinks that are normally used for the preparation of food, or where one would normally access drinkable water. All clothes that they have come into contact with should also be washed, as should any surfaces – for instance those that let the pet run along or climb.
The CDC is seriously concerned about the dangers that pet bearded dragons may have in terms of Salmonella and its effects. The fact is that these cute creatures are carriers of a disease that, as the CDC warns, has infected at least 132 people.
By Penny Swift