CDC investigates multi-state salmonella outbreak linked to pet hedgehogs, bearded dragons

The CDC reminded pet owners not to kiss or snuggle their creatures, and to wash their hands after feeding or touching them. 

A 2016 file photo of a bearded dragon named Hashbrown at the MSPCA Nevins Farm shelter in Methuen, MA.
A 2016 file photo of a bearded dragon named Hashbrown at the MSPCA Nevins Farm shelter in Methuen, MA. –Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

An outbreak of salmonella infections recently surfaced across the country, from Washington to Massachusetts, and health officials are linking the cases back to pet hedgehogs and bearded dragons.

As of Sunday, 17 states — including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia — had reported 32 salmonella typhimurium infections and five hospitalizations connected to contact with pet hedgehogs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Meanwhile, health officials said eight states including Mass. and New Hampshire have reported seven hospitalizations and 13 salmonella Muenster infections caused by contact with pet bearded dragons.

The CDC is investigating the outbreaks separately, although among all the current cases no deaths have been reported.

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Five of those who contracted the disease from pet bearded dragons, the CDC added, are children under 5 years old.

Most people who contract salmonella develop diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps as soon as six hours or as long as six days after exposure. While many people recover without treatment, children under age 5, adults aged 65 and older, and people with weakened immune systems may develop more severe symptoms that could in some cases lead to death. 

Health officials have yet to determine a common source for the spread caused by hedgehogs since patients have reported buying their animals from various places like pet stores, breeders, and online shops.

Officials have also not identified a common supplier for the spread caused by bearded dragons, as many patients said they bought the reptiles from various pet stores in different states.

The CDC reminded pet owners not to kiss or snuggle their creatures, and to wash their hands after feeding or touching them. 

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