Bearded dragons are blamed for salmonella outbreaks

(Photo by Carl Court / Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – Bearded kites, a common reptile pet, have been linked to a salmonella outbreak affecting individuals in over two dozen states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

A CDC study has found that 44 people in 25 states were infected with Salmonella Uganda between December 24, 2020 and December 2, 2021. Those infected ranged in age from 1 to 84 years, eight of whom were under 5 years old. Out of the 37 people with information available, the CDC says 15 were admitted. No deaths have been reported.

In interviews with state and local health authorities, 21 people reported owning or touching bearded dragons or their supplies the week before they became ill. Those who owned a bearded dragon say they got them from various places, including pet stores and online.

Public health investigators were able to collect samples from the bearded dragon of one of the sick people. Salmonella on the reptile was found to be closely related to the bacteria in the sick, according to the CDC, meaning that those who became ill were likely to get sick from touching a bearded dragon.

Two states, Washington and Wisconsin, have each reported four cases of salmonella, which the CDC believes are linked to bearded dragons. California, Oregon and Rhode Island have each reported three cases. For a state-by-state division of salmonella cases linked to bearded dragons, click here.

Bearded dragons, like other animals, can carry salmonella bacteria in their excrement, even though they look healthy and clean, the CDC explains. You can get sick from touching a bearded dragon or something in its surroundings – like its cage, feeding trough or cleaning equipment – and touching your mouth or swallowing the bacteria.

If you have a bearded dragon or come in contact with one, the CDC recommends:

  • Wash your hands
  • Do not kiss or cuddle the bearded dragon
  • Do not eat or drink around it
  • Keep it out of the kitchen
  • Keep its supplies and habitat clean

The CDC reports that bearded kites are not recommended for children under 5 years of age, adults 65 or older, and those with weakened immune systems. These groups are at greater risk of getting sick from the bacteria that bearded dragons can carry.

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