Salmonella Cases Linked to Frogs

A pet frog, the African dwarf frog, meant for home aquariums, has been linked to over 200 cases of <"">Salmonella typhimurium poisoning in recent months. Many of the illnesses have been reported in children under the age of 10 years old, noted Pediatric Supersite, citing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Researchers from the California Department of Public Health took samples from houses in which there were African dwarf frogs and found the dangerous S. typhimurium outbreak strain, according to Pediatric Supersite. The investigation into 21 illnesses and two frog distributors led to the discovery of a California breeder as being the common frog source, noted Pediatric Supersite. The CDC pointed out that this breeder only sells the contaminated African dwarf frogs to distributors, not to pet stores or the public; public health officials are collaborating with this breeder to implement control measures, Pediatric Supersite added.

CDC officials said that the California breeding center was first identified as the outbreak source in 2010 and noted that water frogs, such as those involved in this outbreak, are typically kept in “home aquariums and fish tanks,” said MSNBC previously. In 2009, we wrote that the outbreak had sickened 48 people in 25 states.

Of the 223 patients, 70 percent were children and 37 patients required hospitalization; no fatalities have been linked to this outbreak, to date, said the Pediatric Supersite. Of those sickened, 65 percent of those interviewed had some contact with the African dwarf frog in the week prior to their failing ill. According to the researchers, the average time from touching the frog to illness was about 15 days, explained Pediatric Supersite.

The CDC is calling for vigilance concerning Salmonella linked to amphibians, such as pet frogs. “Persons at high risk for Salmonella infections, especially children younger than 5 years, pregnant women, and immunocompromised persons, should avoid contact with frogs, water used by the frogs, and their habitats,” the researchers wrote, quoted Pediatric Supersite.

We previously wrote that the outbreak spans 41 states and has been ongoing since April 2009, according to the CDC. CDC investigators confirmed the presence of Salmonella in the breeder’s environment in March. People generally fell ill between one week to eight months, with most becoming sick in about 15 days. Most people have cited symptoms that include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.

Salmonellae are, explained MedPageToday previously, “natural intestinal flora for all reptiles.” The problem with the small reptiles is that children likely handle them differently than they do other reptiles such as “pet snakes, lizards, or iguanas,” noted MedPageToday. During a massive outbreak in 2007—considered the largest in this country linked to turtles—children handling the small pets experienced an astronomical 41-fold increased risk of Salmonella contamination versus control groups. Emerging evidence points to a rise in reptile-originated Salmonella outbreaks.

While salmonella bacteria are most often associated with food poisoning, a growing percentage initiate with pet reptiles, which can carry a variety of Salmonella without symptoms, releasing the germ in their feces. Small pet reptiles are especially troublesome because they are often bred in crowded conditions and are more likely to be given to children as pets.

Very young children are at greatest risk for Salmonella infections and CDC officials warn that water frogs should not be given to children and that frogs should not be introduced to “homes with young children, children’s care centers, hospitals, and nursing homes,” wrote MSNBC. Health officials also point out that not just water frogs, but other amphibians and reptiles, such as turtles, can pose risks.

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